Come and You Will See

35 The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). 42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).

43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” – John 1:35-51 ESV

As has already been states, one of the things the apostle John is attempting is to establish and support the deity of Jesus. To do so, he has used the testimony of John the Baptist, who referred to Jesus as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29 ESV). He also shared that he had been witness to the moment when the Spirit of God descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove. This had happened exactly the way God had told him it would happen. And it had been accompanied by a voice from heaven declaring, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy” (Matthew 3:17 NLT).

But one of the most convincing comments to come from the lips of John the Baptist was his confession “I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God” (John 1:34 ESV). At no point does John the Baptist refer to Jesus as the Christ or Messiah. The only time he used the Greek word “Christ” was when he answered the question from the Jewish religious leaders, asking whether that was who he was. He simply told them, “I am not the Christ” (John 1:20 ESV).

But when speaking of Jesus, John the Baptist referred to Him as the Lamb and the Son of God. To the average Jews, the term “Christ” or “Messiah” had come to mean a human savior who would appear on the scene much like David had. He would be a military and political leader who would rescue Israel from their subjugation to Rome and reestablish them as a formidable power in the Middle East. In their minds, the Messiah would be a man sent by God, but they had no suspicion or expectation that he would be God. So, when John the Baptist refers to Jesus as the Son of God, he is boldly proclaiming His divinity. This supports the claim made earlier by John.

No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us. – John 1:18 NLT

But John is not done establishing the deity of Jesus. He picks up the story by describing the events that took place the very next day. Jesus, having been baptized and anointed by the Holy Spirit, began His earthly ministry. The scene John describes most likely took place somewhere in the Judean wilderness, near the shore of the Jordan River where Jesus had been baptized. John the Baptist, standing with two of his followers, spots Jesus walking by and repeats his earlier claim: “Behold, the Lamb of God!”

Hearing these words, the two disciples of John the Baptist decided to follow Jesus. They were intrigued. They wanted to know more. And when Jesus saw them, He asked them, “What are you seeking?” (John 1:38 ESV). Basically, Jesus is asking them what it is they want. He is requiring that they state their intentions. But, interestingly enough, rather than answer His question, the two men ask Jesus where He is staying. They address Jesus as “Rabbi,” a term of respect that clearly reflects their understanding that Jesus was some sort of teacher. Their inquiry into where Jesus lived was most likely their way of asking where He did His teaching. They were signaling their interest in becoming His disciples. But at this point, these two men show no awareness that Jesus was the Messiah. And it does not appear that they understood Him to be divine. All they knew was that their teacher had proclaimed Jesus to be his superior.

among you stands one you do not know, he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” – John 1:26-27 ESV

They probably understood Jesus to be their Rabbi’s teacher and now they wanted to become His disciples as well.

In response to their question, Jesus stated, “Come and you will see” (John 1:39 ESV). His words feature an invitation and a promise. They think they’re about to get a tour of Jesus’ place of residence, but He is signaling something far more significant. Their decision to follow Him is going to open their eyes to things they have never seen before. They end up spending the rest of the day with Jesus and during that time, they begin to grow in their awareness of who He was. John states that one of the men, who he identifies as Andrew, went to search for his brother, Simon. We know from the other gospel accounts that these two brothers were fishermen. Upon finding Simon, Andrew excitedly announced, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ)” (John 1:41 ESV).

During his time with Jesus, something had opened the eyes of Andrew so that he was able to see who Jesus truly was. He had become convinced that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah. But, unlike his former Rabbi, John the Baptist, Andrew is not yet convinced of Jesus’ deity.

Intrigued by his brother’s announcement, Simon followed him to where Jesus was staying. And upon meeting Simon, Jesus does something a bit strange. He immediately changes Simon’s name to Cephas, an Aramaic word that means “rock.” In Greek, it translates into “Peter.”

John provides no explanation for why Jesus did what He did. But there is some irony in this scene. As the gospel narratives unfold, they reveal that Peter was a hotheaded, impulsive, and opinionated man who was quick to speak and rash by nature. He would prove to be a loose cannon whose propensity to put the mouth in gear before the mind was engaged would end up getting him into hot water. And yet, it would be this very same man who would later testify of Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16 ESV).

And Jesus would respond to Peter’s testimony by pronouncing a blessing upon him.

“Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 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.” – Matthew 16:17-18 ESV

John continues the narrative by describing Jesus’ departure for the region of Galilee, in the north. There He found Philip, who lived in Bethsaida, the hometown of Andrew and Simon Peter. Philip quickly accepted the invitation from Jesus to follow Him. Perhaps he had already been informed about Jesus by Andrew and Simon Peter. But whatever the case, he was fully convinced that Jesus was the Messiah, telling his friend, Nathanael, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (John 1:45 ESV). 

Philip was familiar with the Old Testament prophecies concerning the promised Messiah and believed Jesus to be the fulfillment of them. But he was also fully aware that Jesus was the son of Joseph, from the unimpressive town of Nazareth. You can sense the common disdain for Jesus’ hometown by Nathanael’s reaction: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46 ESV).

But Philip challenges his friend to “Come and see” for himself. And Nathanael was not disappointed. As Jesus saw Nathanael, He declared, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” (John 1:47 ESV). Nathanael is taken aback by Jesus’ words, somehow sensing that Jesus knew him intimately. They had never met before, but Jesus revealed things about Nathanael that were personal and private. And then, Jesus blew Nathanael away by announcing, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you” (John 1:48 ESV).

The fact that Nathanael saw Jesus’ words as proof of supernatural power is reflected in his response: “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (John 1:49 ESV).

In a sense, Jesus tells Nathanael, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!” There was going to be far more convincing proof of who Jesus was and it would be confirmed by supernatural signs and wonders.

you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” – John 1:51 ESV

This imagery is reminiscent of the experience the Old Testament patriarch, Jacob had when he dreamed of a ladder descending from heaven.

And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! – Genesis 28:12 ESV

And Jacob was given an interpretation of that dream that assured him, “in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 28:15 ESV). Jesus was announcing that He was the fulfillment of that promise. It would be through Him that all the families of the earth would be blessed. In time, Nathanael and the rest of the disciples of Jesus would have ample proof that He truly was the Son of God, the King of Israel. Jesus had invited these men to “come and see.” By following Him they would be given an opportunity to see the heavens opened and the power of God revealed on earth as never before.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

The Called and the Curious

18 While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 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. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

23 And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. 24 So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, those having seizures, and paralytics, and he healed them. 25 And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan. – Matthew 4:18-25 ESV

With John the Baptist having been arrested by Herod, Jesus picked up where John left off, continuing to declare the same prophetic message concerning the kingdom of heaven.

From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” – Matthew 4:17 ESV

The phrase, “from that time” is used twice by Matthew, and in each instance, it indicates a major shift in the ministry of Jesus. Here it reveals that Jesus was making His ministry much more public than before. It is not that Jesus had been silent up to this point, but that His efforts became much more visible and aimed at a larger audience. He was moving from relative obscurity to increasing notoriety.

And one of the first things Jesus did was begin the process of selecting the men who would be His disciples. It was a common practice among the Jews for a rabbi or teacher to gather students or disciples who would align themselves with him in order to sit under his teaching. These individuals were known as mathētēs, a Greek word that means “pupil” or “learner.”

Matthew’s account of the selection of the two brothers, Simon (Peter) and Andrew, seems to conflict with that of John in his Gospel. There, John records that Jesus first met Simon and Andrew before John the Baptist was arrested. It seems that Andrew had been a disciple of John the Baptist and had heard him refer to Jesus as “the Lamb of God” (John 1:36 ESV). Upon hearing this news, Andrew and another one of the disciples of John the Baptist had spent the day talking to Jesus. When they had finished, Andrew made a beeline to his brother, Simon, in order to tell him what he had discovered.

One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter). – John 1:40-42 ESV

Yet, Matthew paints a somewhat different picture, describing Jesus as encountering and calling Andrew and Simon while they were fishing along the Sea of Galilee. But this seeming contradiction can easily be explained. It is clear from John’s account that Jesus had previously met these two men. But there is no calling mentioned by John. He only indicates that Jesus gave Simon a new nickname: Cephas, which means, “Peter.” So, Matthew is simply picking up the story at a later point when Jesus met these two brothers a second time. He found them casting their nets into the sea, a common occupation by many who lived in the region. And it was at this point that Jesus issued His official invitation to Simon and Andrew to become His disciples: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19 ESV).

According to John’s Gospel, Simon and Andrew would join Philip and Nathanael, whom Jesus had already included in His growing list of disciples (John 1:43-51). To each of these men, Jesus issued a call to follow Him. To Simon and Andrew, He explained the radical change this call would have on their chosen occupation.  From now on, their fishing would be for men. It is unlikely that this statement made sense to these two brothers when they heard it, but Matthew indicates that they didn’t hesitate to accept Jesus’ invitation. “Immediately they left their nets and followed him” (Matthew 4:20 ESV). John’s account of Andrew’s initial encounter with Jesus makes what appears to be a somewhat knee-jerk response by these two men more plausible. After His first meeting with Jesus, Andrew had become convinced that Jesus was the Messiah, and had told his brother, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ)” (John 1:41 ESV). So, the fact that Andrew and Simon walked away from their nets and followed Jesus was due to their belief that Jesus truly was the long-awaited Messiah.

And John records that Nathanael had been blown away by his initial encounter with Jesus, declaring his revelation with the words, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (John 1:49 ESV). These men were not just dropping everything to follow some obscure rabbi they had just met. They were aligning themselves with the one they believed to be the Son of God and the future King of Israel. They had high hopes.

And Matthew indicates that Jesus added two more men to His team when He extended the same invitation to two more brothers, James and John. They, too, were fishermen, and Luke indicates that they were business partners with Simon (Luke 5:10). And they had been eyewitnesses to a miracle that Jesus had performed.

One day as Jesus was preaching on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, great crowds pressed in on him to listen to the word of God. He noticed two empty boats at the water’s edge, for the fishermen had left them and were washing their nets. Stepping into one of the boats, Jesus asked Simon, its owner, to push it out into the water. So he sat in the boat and taught the crowds from there.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.”

“Master,” Simon replied, “we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.” And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear! A shout for help brought their partners in the other boat, and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking.

When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m such a sinful man.” For he was awestruck by the number of fish they had caught, as were the others with him. His partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were also amazed. – Luke 5:1-10 NLT

This initial encounter with Jesus explains why these two men were so ready and willing to accept the invitation from Jesus and immediately leave their boats and their father behind in order to follow this miracle-working man who claimed to be the Messiah of Israel.

And Matthew summarizes the early ministry of Jesus by stating: “And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people” (Matthew 4:23 ESV). Simon, Andrew, Nathanael, Philip, James, and John were all given a first-hand view of the remarkable power and wisdom of Jesus. Their initial experience as His disciples were a whirlwind of miraculous healings and messages regarding the coming kingdom. It was a lot to take in.

These simple men had to have been blown away by what they saw. Everywhere they went, Jesus was attracting huge crowds. People were bringing the sick and the lame in order to receive healing from Jesus. The groundswell of support from the people had to have encouraged them. They were witnessing a revolution taking place. And they had to have thought how lucky they were to have aligned themselves with Jesus. They were His disciples, and they were going to benefit from their close association with Him. Or so they thought. When they saw the great crowds that followed them “from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan” (Matthew 4:25 ESV), they must have assumed that it would not be long before Jesus had the numbers He needed to make His way into Jerusalem to claim His rightful place as the King of Israel. And, as His closest associates, they were bound to enjoy a place at His side.

But what we see here is a case of man’s misperception of Jesus’ ministry and message. There were many who followed Him because He performed miracles. They were curious to see this man who could heal the sick, cast out demons, give sight to the blind, and restore the ability to walk to the lame. Others were attracted to His messages regarding the kingdom. They were anxious for someone, anyone, to rid them of the oppressive rule of the Romans. Jesus was not the first person to give the people hope that the Messiah had arrived. But maybe He was the real deal.

And James, John, Simon, Andrews, Nathanael, and Philip had accepted the call of Jesus, but their motives had been all over the map. Perhaps they saw it as a chance to leave behind their dead-end occupation as fishermen. Or, believing as Nathanael did, that Jesus was the Son of God and the King of Israel, they probably thought they were getting in on the ground floor of an exciting opportunity.

These early days of Jesus’ ministry were filled with wonder, excitement, and awe. There was a great deal of enthusiasm associated with His growing reputation. But it would not be long before His fame turned to infamy. His popularity would end up polarizing Him from the religious leaders of the day. His miracles would attract crowds and raise the suspicions of the Pharisees and scribes. And the very next section of Matthew’s Gospel will outline Jesus’ message to the people, His Sermon on the Mount, that will describe what life will look like in His Kingdom. It will be an eye-opening, game-changing, paradigm-shifting introduction into the gospel message He came to deliver and the impossible lifestyle He came to make possible.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Just As He Had Planned It.

19 Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. 20 But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. 22 The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, 24 for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. 25 So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.

27 Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius). 29 So the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. 30 And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul. Acts 11:19-30 ESV

In this section, Luke begins to introduce yet another phase of the church’s continuing spread and growth. Back in chapter eight, he had described one of the ramifications of Stephen’s martyrdom. It was the increased persecution of the church, in part, because of the efforts of Saul. Yet, in spite of the intensification of the persecution, he said, “the believers who were scattered preached the Good News about Jesus wherever they went” (Acts 8:4 NLT). Then, by way of example, he chronicled Philip’s trip to the region of Samaria and all that happened as a result. Here in chapter 11, Luke picks up where he left off, letting us know that the persecution of the church had resulted in a dispersion of the Christians well beyond Samaria. The believers who fled Jerusalem “traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch” (Acts 10:19 ESV). But then Luke adds a telling detail, revealing that these Jewish believers kept their efforts to share the gospel restricted to their own people: The Jews. He says that they spoke the word to no one but Jews. This is significant because he shares it immediately after detailing the dramatic outcome of Peter’s journey to Caesarea, where Gentiles came to faith and received the anointing of the Spirit of God just as the disciples had on the day of Pentecost. This provides us with an important insight into the early days of the church. As the church continued to grow and the gospel made its way outside the confines of Jerusalem and Judea, the effort developed multiple fronts, each seemingly with its own emphasis and distinct motivation. Those Jewish believers who escaped and made their way to Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch in Syria, were still under the impression that this new religion was little more than a new branch of reformed Judaism. It was a religion of Jews and for Jews. After all, Jesus had been a Jew and had claimed to be the long-awaited Jewish Messiah. So, it made sense that they would concentrate their efforts to share the gospel by focusing on fellow Jews. And, as Jews, the thought of sharing their new-found faith with a Gentile would never have crossed their minds. Remember, it had taken a vision and a word from God to get Peter to go to the home of Cornelius.

Cyprus, Phoenicia and Antioch were located hundreds of miles from Jerusalem and illustrate the ever-expanding reach of the gospel. Antioch, located in the region of Syria, was 300 miles from the city of Jerusalem and, at that time, would have been the third-largest city in the entire Roman empire. It was a bustling metropolis, made up of people from all walks of life and from all over the world. It is estimated that Antioch had a population of anywhere from 500,000 to 800,000 people, with a seventh of them being Jews. As a city, it had a reputation for decadence and its citizens’ love of pleasure. And yet, Antioch would become a major hub for Christianity in the coming years.

As the believing Jews made their ways to these various destinations, they faithfully shared the good news regarding Jesus Christ. Luke tells us that, in Antioch, they included Hellenistic Jews in their target audience. And he records that “a great number who believed turned to the Lord” (Acts 11:21 ESV). Even though they were restricting their outreach to Jews, God was blessing their efforts. And when news of what was happening in Antioch got back to the leadership of the church in Jerusalem, they sent Barnabas to check it out. When he arrived, Barnabas was greatly encouraged by what he saw and spent time exhorting those in the church there “to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose” (Acts 11:23 ESV). He knew that the days ahead would be difficult. It was not going to be easy to live out their new faith in the midst of a culture like that in Antioch. These people, as Jews, were already in the minority. Now, as believers, they were going to face further rejection by their own people. So, Barnabas felt compelled to strengthen the fledgling church by remaining with them for a prolonged period of time.  And knowing he would need help, he traveled to Tarsus to enlist Saul in his efforts. This would begin an important new phase in the God-ordained ministry of Saul. And it is essential that we recognize God’s sovereign hand at work in all these details. Stephen’s martyrdom had resulted in persecution and the dispersion of the church. It had also resulted in Saul’s intensified efforts in that persecution, after he approvingly watched the stoning of Stephen. And yet, the resurrected Jesus had confronted Saul as he made his way to Damascus to arrest and round up Christians and, as a result, Saul had undergone a dramatic conversion. And some three years later, when Saul had traveled to Jerusalem, it had been Barnabas who acted as his host and sponsor, introducing him to the apostles and explaining the dramatic details behind Saul’s conversion. Now, when the leaders in Jerusalem felt compelled to send a representative to Antioch to investigate all that was going on, they just so happened to choose Barnabas. This was anything but a case of happenstance or blind fate. It was the hand of God. Barnabas was chosen because God had ordained it. And his arrival in one of the largest, predominantly Gentile cities in the Roman empire was something God orchestrated. Now, he would have Saul working by his side, a man whom Jesus had chosen to be His witness to the Gentiles. It’s important that we recall the words spoken by Jesus to Ananias, commanding him to go lay hands on Saul immediately after his Damascus road experience:

“Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. – Romans 9:15 ESV

Here in this chapter, we see God instigating what will be another new front in the war against sin and death. He is putting one of His primary weapons into the battle, sending Saul into an environment where his gifts and abilities would be used by the Spirit of God to accomplish great things for the Kingdom. It had probably been close to nine years since Saul’s conversion, and during that time, he would have been growing in his faith and honing his Spirit-given abilities as a messenger of the gospel. God had been preparing Saul for this very occasion.
Luke records that Saul and Barnabas spent a year in Antioch; ministering, evangelizing, and growing the fledgling congregation there. Interestingly, Luke provides us with the insight that it was at this point in the timeline of the church that believers came to be known and referred to as Christians. This was most likely about ten years after Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. A decade had passed and the church, formerly called “the way” was now known for the name of the One in whose name they believed and had placed their faith. This name is significant in that it contains three important characteristics. First of all, “Christ” is the Greek translation of Messiah. The Messiah was the Jewish Savior, promised by God in the Hebrew Scriptures. So, we have in the name “Christian”, an obvious link to the Jewish roots of Jesus. But Christ would become the primary name by which Gentiles would commonly refer to Jesus. It became like a second name for Him, much as we use it today. And the ending, “ians” is of a Latin derivation, the language of Rome and the predominate language of the empire. Luke’s inclusion of the seemingly insignificant fact that the name, “Christian” had become the primary means by which believers were described is more important than we might imagine. The faith was becoming universalized. It was making inroads into the various cultures of the day, and developing a reputation as a free-standing religion, separate and distinct from Judaism or any other pagan religion. It was slowly, but surely, becoming a fixture in the culture of the day.
Luke ends this chapter with what appears to be another interesting, and far from unimportant anecdote: A prophecy regarding an eminent worldwide famine. Once again, we have to look beyond the black and white nature of Luke’s reporting of Agabus’ prophecy. Why did Luke, under the inspiration of the Spirit, include this information at this point in his book? As we will see, this famine will play a significant part in the future of the church. And Luke provides some insight into how it will impact the ministry of Saul himself.
29 So the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. 30 And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul. – Acts 11:29-30 ESV
The church in Jerusalem would suffer greatly because of this famine. The Jews there, already suffering from persecution because of their faith, would find themselves living in relative poverty and barely able to exist. While there had been a time, in the early days of the church in Jerusalem, when the rich believers had been able to provide for the less-fortunate in their midst, after the arrival of the famine, that would no longer be possible. Now, the global church would provide for the needs of those in Jerusalem. And Saul would make it part of his life’s mission to raise funds from among the predominantly Gentile congregations to which he ministered, and to see that those resources made their way back to the church in Jerusalem. God would even use a famine to accomplish His will regarding the spread of the gospel and the unity of the church around the world. As it spread, God would see to it that it remained unified in its love and mission.
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)  Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

To the Ends of the Earth.

26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. 27 And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29 And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” 30 So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this:

“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter
    and like a lamb before its shearer is silent,
    so he opens not his mouth.
33 In his humiliation justice was denied him.
    Who can describe his generation?
For his life is taken away from the earth.”

34 And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. 36 And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” 38 And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. 39 And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea. – Acts 8:26-40 ESV

This amazing first-hand account of Philip’s encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch, was most likely conveyed to Luke some 20 years after the fact, when he and Paul visited Caesarea and stayed in the home of Philip. He records that occasion in Acts, chapter 21.

“On the next day we departed and came to Caesarea, and we entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him.” – Acts 21:8 ESV

You can easily see from the story of Philip’s mission trip to Samaria, how he got his nickname of “the evangelist”. And this account of his sharing of the gospel with the Ethiopian eunuch only solidifies that designation. He had a heart for the lost and a desire to take the message of salvation to those who found themselves outside the bounds of Judaism. He was a Hellenistic, Greek-speaking Jew, so he knew what it was like to be an outsider. And, like Stephen, he made the perfect choice to take the gospel to the Samaritans, who were considered half-breeds by the Jews. And now, in this account, we see Philip being led by the Spirit to take the gospel one step further, providing “the evangelist” with a one-on-one witnessing opportunity with a full-fledged foreigner. But it’s interesting to note how God was slowly and methodically providing new opportunities to share the gospel. As half-Jews, the Samaritans were worshipers of Yahweh, so their receptivity to the message about the Messiah was high. And Luke records that the Ethiopian eunuch, while a foreigner, was also a follower of Yahweh, having just left Jerusalem where he had gone to worship. When Philip catches up with him, this high-placed official in the court of Queen Candace of Ethiopia was reading from the scroll of Isaiah. And it just so happened that the passage he was reading contained a Messianic prophecy. What an obviously Spirit-inspired appointment. This man’s heart had already been prepared by the Spirit. He was ready to hear what Philip had to share with him, and it had all been preordained by God.

Everything about this story screams the sovereignty of God. That this man was a highly-ranked Ethiopian official, who just happened to be a worshiper of Yahweh should not be treated lightly. That he had made the long and arduous trip to Jerusalem in order to worship at this particular time should not be overlooked. Most likely, he had come during the celebrations of Passover and Pentecost, and his timing could not have been better. The fact that Luke designates this man as a eunuch is an important point in the story as well. Now, the label “eunuch” does not necessarily mean he was a literal eunuch. This was often used as a title to refer to a high-ranking official in a Near-Eastern government. But if he was a literal eunuch, having undergone castration, Deuteronomy 23:1 clearly states that his condition would have made him unwelcome in the Temple. “No one whose testicles are crushed or whose male organ is cut off shall enter the assembly of the Lord.” He would have been viewed as unclean and forbidden from worshiping and offering sacrifices in the Temple. And yet, this is the very man to whom Philip was led by the angel of the Lord. God was intentional in His directive to Philip. This man represented a unique blend of attributes that made him a particularly fascinating candidate for salvation. He was a foreigner. In fact, according the ancient Greek historians, Ethiopia was considered the ends of the earth. And that is exactly where Jesus had instructed the disciples to take the gospel. But God had prearranged for this man to be predisposed to the message concerning the Messiah by making him a worshiper of Yahweh. God had a heart for the lost of all nations. He had a divine plan in place to include all people of every tribe, nation and tongue in His family. And His intentions towards eunuchs was articulated long ago in the Book of Isaiah.

“Don’t let foreigners who commit themselves to the Lord say,
    ‘The Lord will never let me be part of his people.’
And don’t let the eunuchs say,
    ‘I’m a dried-up tree with no children and no future.’
For this is what the Lord says:
I will bless those eunuchs
    who keep my Sabbath days holy
and who choose to do what pleases me
    and commit their lives to me.
I will give them—within the walls of my house—
    a memorial and a name
    far greater than sons and daughters could give.
For the name I give them is an everlasting one.
    It will never disappear! – Isaiah 56:3-5 NLT

 

This man fit the bill. He was a Sabbath-keeper. He was faithful follower of God. And now God was going to see that he heard the good news of Jesus Christ. While his status as a eunuch might keep him out of the Temple, it would not keep him out of the household of faith and the body of Christ.

The passage the man was reading was from Isaiah 53:7-8, a prophetic announcement about the suffering Savior. He was at a loss as to who these verses were referring, so he asked Philip for an explanation. And Luke records that “beginning with this same Scripture, Philip told him the Good News about Jesus” (Acts 8:35 NLT). Philip introduced this man to Jesus, the Messiah. He most likely told him about Jesus’ incarnation and earthly ministry. He brought him up to speed about Jesus’ trials and death, but also about His resurrection and ascension. And there is little doubt that Philip shared about all the events that had happened since Pentecost and the arrival of the Spirit of God. The end result was that this man believed and was baptized. It was common practice for Jews to baptize Gentile converts to Judaism, but because this man was a eunuch, baptism would have been withheld due to the Deuteronomy 23:1 passage cited earlier. That is most likely why the man asked Philip if there was anything that might prevent him from undergoing water baptism. Philip happily obliged, baptizing the man as soon as they found a body of water in which to do so. 

Luke records that, after his salvation and baptism, this man went on his way rejoicing. He most likely returned home to Ethiopia, a changed man with a new message of salvation, which he probably shared with all those with whom he worked, including Queen Candace. The gospel was making it to the ends of the earth. And it had been God’s doing. He had made it happen. Philip had been nothing more than a willing and obedient servant, listening to the call of God and sharing the good news about Jesus. It was not Philip who led this man to Christ, but God. Philip was nothing more than a witness to the gospel. It was God who had prepared this man’s heart and prearranged the appointment along the highway where Philip was given the privilege of sharing the message of salvation with one whom God had called.

This man represents the very first full-fledged Gentile convert to Christianity. And it just so happens that he was a foreigner and a eunuch. He was from a distant land, and like the Samaritans, he would have been an outsider among the Jews. He would have been viewed as damaged goods and not fully acceptable in their social and religious contexts. But he was more than welcome in God’s family. And he would become the first fruits of all those who would believe who were outsiders and outcasts. As Paul so aptly reminds us, we were once on the outside, just like this man.

11 Don’t forget that you Gentiles used to be outsiders. You were called “uncircumcised heathens” by the Jews, who were proud of their circumcision, even though it affected only their bodies and not their hearts. 12 In those days you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel, and you did not know the covenant promises God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without hope. 13 But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ. – Ephesians 2:11-13 NLT

But we have been united with Christ Jesus. Not only that, as Peter reminds us, we have become part of a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. – 1 Peter 2:9-10 ESV

God has seen to it that the good news regarding Jesus has made it to the ends of the earth and we are the beneficiaries of that divine plan. But He is not done yet. There are more who need to hear. There are others whose hearts He has prepared and who are waiting to hear the message of salvation made possible through Jesus Christ. Are you His Philip for this age?

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)  Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Seed Scattered.

Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip, when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was much joy in that city.

But there was a man named Simon, who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he himself was somebody great. 10 They all paid attention to him, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is the power of God that is called Great.” 11 And they paid attention to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic. 12 But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles performed, he was amazed. – Acts 8:4-13 ESV

Immediately following the stoning of Stephen, an intense persecution of the church in Jerusalem had begun. It was as if Stephen’s execution was the first step by the Sanhedrin in a much more  robust and radical plan for dealing with this troublesome new sect they had labeled “the way”.  From the moment Stephen was buried and eulogized by devout and faithful friends, the danger facing the church increased rapidly and took on the tone of an official effort on the part of the Jewish leadership to eliminate this heretical group once and for all. Luke reintroduces Saul, the young man who had held the coats of those who had stoned Stephen. But this time, he is presented as an active force in the extermination program instituted by the high priest and the Jewish council. Later on in this same book, Luke records Saul’s own words concerning his work on behalf of the Sanhedrin.

“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day. I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women, as the high priest and the whole council of elders can bear me witness. From them I received letters to the brothers, and I journeyed toward Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished.” – Acts 22:3-5 ESV

Saul, who happened to be a Pharisee, thought he had been doing God a favor by arresting and imprisoning Christians. They had fully approved of, and probably sanctioned, his efforts in Jerusalem, and had even given him letters of recommendation to take with him to Damascus so he could catch up with the rapidly spreading influence of “the way”. Saul would make it to Damascus, but as a changed man, an event Luke will soon recount. And when Saul arrived in Damascus, the followers of Christ there, reluctant to believe that any change had taken place in Saul’s life, said, “Isn’t this the same man who caused such devastation among Jesus’ followers in Jerusalem? And didn’t he come here to arrest them and take them in chains to the leading priests?” (Acts 9:21 NLT).

Yet, with all this intense animosity aimed at the church of Jesus Christ, there were those who had faithfully picked up the mantel of Stephen and had chosen to follow the rapidly dispersing church, taking the gospel with them. And Luke makes it clear that when the church began to scatter, the original apostles of Jesus had chosen to remain in Jerusalem. So, God raised up others. And one of them was Philip, who happened to be one of the seven Hellenistic Jews, along with Stephen, who had been appointed by the apostles to care for the widows in the church in Jerusalem. Like Stephen, Philip was a man “of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom” (Acts 6:3 ESV). And like Stephen, Philip saw that his job as a follower of Christ was going to encompass far more than dispersing food to needy widows within the congregation. It’s not that this was unimportant, but that there was an even greater need to continue the spread of the gospel. And Philip, as a Greek-speaking Jew, had a natural predisposition and inclination to share the gospel with those who were non-Jews. So, while the apostles remained in Jerusalem, Philip headed for Samaria, where he proclaimed Christ to them. With his arrival in Samaria, the call of Jesus for His disciples to “be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth”, was beginning to be fulfilled.

The word that is translated as “scattered” in verse 4 is the Greek word, diaspeirō, and it comes from another Greek word, speirō, which refers to sowing seed. With the persecution of the church, the seed of the good news of Jesus Christ was being scattered or spread throughout Judea, Samaria and ultimately, as we will soon see, to the ends of the earth. But Philip headed for Samaria. Samaria was a region located north of Jerusalem, and Luke tells us that Philip went to “the city of Samaria”, most likely referring to a prominent city within the region, because there is no record of a city bearing that name. It could be that Philip went to Sychar, the very same Samaritan city Jesus had visited with His disciples, and where He had had His encounter with the woman at the well. He had told her, “whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14 ESV). John goes on to record the rest of the conversation Jesus had with this woman.

25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.” – John 4:25-26 ESV

She revealed an understanding and awareness of the Messiah, because the Samaritans were considered half-Jews. They were the result of Jews who had intermarried with Gentiles sent to live in the land after the Assyrians had defeated the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C. The rest of the Jews considered them as half-breeds religiously and ethnically. While the Samaritans continued to worship Yahweh, they did so from there own temple, located on Mount Gerizim in Samaria. There was no love affair between the Jews and the Samaritans. In fact, in his gospel, Luke records another encounter Jesus had with Samaritans. This time, Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem and had sent his disciples ahead to a Samaritan city to tell them to prepare for His arrival. But the residents of the city refused to welcome Jesus because they understood His final destination was Jerusalem. So, James and John, being good Jews and faithful disciples of Jesus, had offered to take care of this ungrateful and disrespectful village of Samaritan half-breeds, asking, “Lord, should we call down fire from heaven to burn them up?” (Luke 9:54 NLT). But Luke records that Jesus, rather than taking His disciples up on their offer, rebuked them.

Whether Philip went to Sychar or some other city in Samaria, we don’t know. But we do know that there was an openness to the gospel on the part of the people of Samaria, because John tells us that Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well had significant ramifications.

39 Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” – John 4:39-42 ESV

Luke records that when Philip arrived in Samaria, he preached Christ, the Messiah. He performed signs, including casting out unclean spirits and healing the paralyzed and lame. And “there was much joy in that city” (Acts 8:8 ESV). God, in His sovereign will, was using this Hellenistic, Greek-speaking Jew, to preach the good news of Jesus Christ to despised and rejected Samaritans. And without realizing it, the Sanhedrin, who would have had nothing but disdain for Samaritans, had actually played a part in their salvation by instigating the persecution of the church and the scattering of the seed of the gospel. God works in mysterious ways.

And Luke records another individual whose life was changed as a result of Philip’s efforts. He was a magician or, better yet, a sorcerer named Simon. This man was not a magician like we would think of. He did not practice slight-of-hand or perform card tricks. He was a practitioner of the occult, performing miraculous signs, but with the help of demons, not God. And he had established a cult-following there in Samaria, with the people saying of him, “This man is the power of God that is called Great” (Acts 8:10 ESV). He had convinced the people of Samaria that His power was of God and it could be that some believed him to be the Messiah. But with Philip’s arrival in town, Simon suddenly found himself with competition. But he noticed that there was something very different about Philip and his efforts among the people. Philip wasn’t trying to amass a following or establish a name for himself. Luke records, “when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women” (Acts 8:12 ESV). Lives were being changed. This wasn’t about impressing people with inexplicable displays of power. It was about life-change. It was about eternal life and redemption. Simon was amazed at what he saw. And Luke records that he too believed and was baptized. But as we will see, it will become clear that Simon was in search of more than salvation. He was after power. He saw what Philip offered as a means to an end. And when he realizes that the Holy Spirit seems to be the key to Philip’s amazing powers and abilities, he will try to purchase this power for himself.

But we’ll hold off on that discussion until tomorrow. The real point in these verses is that the enemy was attempting to defeat the cause of Christ, but was actually causing it to spread and grow. The dispersion of the church was one of the best things that could have happened. And if you think about it, it all began with a disagreement that had arisen in the church regarding widows whose needs were being overlooked. It was because of this need that seven men were chosen. One of them was Stephen. He would end up preaching a powerful message that would result in his own martyrdom. His martyrdom would lead to intensified persecution against the church by the Jewish leadership. That persecution would cause the church to scatter. That scattering of the church would cause the gospel seed to be sown in places it had never been before. And lives would be changed – forever.

 

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)  Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Joshua 5-6, Acts 8

The Movement of God.

Joshua 5-6, Acts 8

So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they captured the city. ­– Joshua 6:20 ESV

The Bible gives us a glimpse into the history of God’s interactions with man. It reveals moments in which God intervenes and interjects Himself into the affairs of men, revealing His divine presence and displaying His incomparable power. When it was time for the people of Israel to begin their conquest of the land of Canaan, God showed up in the form of the Captain of the Host. Joshua found himself face to face with the Lord Himself, dressed for battle and with drawn sword in hand. Joshua, not immediately recognizing who this individual was, asked Him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” (Joshua 5:13 ESV). In other words, Joshua wanted to know if this warrior and His army were friends or foes. Did the Israelites have two enemies to contend with, or was this an unexpected ally? But the Lord’s answer was basically, “Neither.” He simply replied, “No, but I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come” (Joshua 5:14 ESV). And Joshua immediately bowed down and worshiped Him. We know that this was no ordinary man, because of what He instructed Joshua to do next. “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy” (Joshua 5:15 ESV). These were the same words God spoke when He appeared to Moses in the burning bush years earlier. This was a sacred encounter with God. He had showed up and was letting Joshua know that His presence was going to have a dramatic impact on what was about to happen. The conquest of the land was not going to be done conventionally or by human means alone. It was to be a movement of God. It was going to have the fingerprints of God all over it, so that the people of Israel would know that their success was due to Him, not themselves. God’s instructions to Joshua regarding the siege and fall of Jericho had to have sounded farfetched and a bit ridiculous. But Joshua’s obedience brought victory. His willingness to do God’s work in God’s way resulted in God’s will being done.

What does this passage reveal about God?

It is so easy for us to question the will and the ways of God. We sometimes wonder and question why God does things the way He does. In reading the story of the spread of the church in the book of Acts, it is difficult to understand why Stephen had to die a martyr’s death. It is hard to comprehend why Saul had to persecute the church, dragging off men and women to prison. But the movement of God is not always recognizable to us. Luke records the events just as they happened. He makes it clear that “Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison” (Acts 8:3 ESV). But even this was a work of God. It was all part of the plan of God. Because at this point, the message of the good news of Jesus Christ has been confined to the city of Jerusalem. But Jesus had told His disciples, “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8 ESV). The gospel was to be preached around the world. So God moved in the midst of men, bringing about a persecution that would result in a dispersion of the people of God so that they might spread the message of Christ. “Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word” (Acts 8:4 ESV). God moved and so did the people. And Luke makes it clear that Philip went down to Samaria, exactly where Jesus had instructed His disciples to go. And because Philip was forced to leave the safe and familiar confines of Jerusalem, many of the Samaritans heard the good news of Jesus Christ and believed. God moved and the Spirit of God came upon all those who believed. He put His seal of approval on the lives of those who placed their faith in Jesus. Philip even got the opportunity to share the gospel with an Ethiopian – someone who represented “the end of the earth.” Philip would end up traveling through Judea and settling in Caesarea, a busy trading hub on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The good news was spreading. This was clearly a movement of God.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Mankind has always needed a movement of God. If you take Him out of the story of human history, it would be a bleak and hopeless affair. God’s movements among men have always resulted in powerful and significant outcomes. He moved at creation and brought mankind into existence. He moved again and brought about the destruction of virtually all mankind because of the prevailing presence of sin. But He moved in the life of Noah and provided a means of salvation. He moved in the life of Abraham and brought about the creation of the people of Israel. He moved in the life of Moses and delivered His people from captivity in Egypt. He moved among the Israelites, providing them with provision and protection all the years they wandered in the wilderness. He moved at Jericho, and the walls fell. Mankind desperately needs to see God move. But God almost always moves through men. He used Noah. He used Abraham. He used Moses and Joshua. He used Stephen, Peter, and Philip. God used the people of Israel to march around the walls of Jericho, but it was God who caused the walls to fall. God used Philip to share the good news of Jesus Christ with the people living in Samaria, but it was God who caused His Holy Spirit to fall. The movement of God among men always uses men of God. Simon the magician failed to understand that fact. He wanted the power for himself. He thought he could purchase the ability to display power like God possessed. But the movement of God is reserved for God alone. It can’t be bought, replicated, or manufactured by human means.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

As a child of God I should long to see the movement of God in my life and in the world in which I live. The lost among whom I live don’t need to see my handiwork, they need to see God at work in and around my life. When the nations living in the land of Canaan got word about how God had miraculously dried up the waters of the Jordan River, allowing the people of Israel to cross over, the book of Joshua records, “their hearts melted and there was no longer any spirit in them because of the people of Israel” (Joshua 5:1 ESV). They knew that the people of Israel had a powerful God who moved on their behalf. He displayed His power in practical and unprecedented ways. He moved and the world took notice. When God moves, it is always difficult for the world to ignore, explain or understand. They may try to discount it or deny it, but a true movement of God among men is usually undeniable and unavoidable. When God moves, men notice. We should long for a movement of God among us. As the people of God, we should pray for and expect God to move on our behalf and in our midst. When God moves, things happen. In Jericho, walls fell. In Samaria, the Holy Spirit fell. God wants to move in our midst. He is still the Captain of the Host, ready to fight on our behalf and defeat the enemies we face.

Father, I want to see You move today. We desperately need a movement of God in our midst. Sometimes I don’t always understand how You work. I don’t always like how You choose to move, but I recognize that when You choose to move among men, it it always obvious and undeniable. That is what we long to see. You are here. Let us see You move.  Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

 

Day 119 – John 14:1-14

Knowing Jesus.

John 14:1-14

Jesus replied, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am?” – John 14:9 NLT

Jesus had just informed Peter that he would deny Him three times, then He says, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1 NLT). Really? For the last few hours, He had been talking continuously about being betrayed, denied, having His body broken, His blood shed, and that He was going away, and where He was going they couldn’t go. So how could He tell them to not be troubled? There is much the disciples do not understand. And they would not understand it until some time after Jesus left and the Holy Spirit came. So until then, Jesus tried to assure them that, in spite of all the fear building up inside themselves, they could trust Him. In fact, He encouraged them to trust in God AND to trust in Him. Why? Because He and His Father were one. This was a joint plan, involving both the Son and the Father, and so the disciples had nothing to fear. Jesus assured them that He was going away, but that He was also returning for them, and when He did, He would take them to be with Him.

Thomas speaks up, expressing his confusion and concern. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?” (John 14:5 NLT). You can sense the growing anxiety in Thomas’ reaction. He doesn’t understand WHERE Jesus is going or WHY He has to go. He can’t comprehend what is happening and what it is that Jesus seems to be inferring. This is NOT what he and the disciples had expected. But Jesus tells Him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 NLT). With this one statement, Jesus summed up His entire ministry and message. It had always been about access. Jesus came to provide a way for men and women to be made right with God and to restore them to fellowship with Him. Sin had compromised their relationship with God. Sin had alienated them from God. The Law had showed them God’s holy standard and sin had caused them to rebel against it, preventing them from keeping His law perfectly. Jesus had come to remedy that. He had come to do what they couldn’t do: Keep the law perfectly. He came to live a sinless, holy, obedient life, so that He might be the perfect sin substitute and die in their place on the cross. In doing so, He would satisfy the just demands of a holy, righteous God. Jesus would take on our sin and suffer our punishment, and in return, we would receive His righteousness and God’s approval. So when Jesus told Thomas and the disciples that He was the way, the truth and the life and that no one could come to God any other way than through Him, this was radical news to them.

If You Had Known Me

Jesus followed this bombshell by bringing up the subject of the knowledge of Him. He said, “If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is” (John 14:7 NLT). This had to have offended the disciples. Hadn’t they just spent the last three and a half years of their lives with Jesus, and now He was insinuating that they didn’t know Him? But in reality, they didn’t know Jesus. Up until that point, they hadn’t known Him as the way, the truth and the life. They knew Him as the Messiah, the healer, the Son of God, the teacher, rabbi, parable teller, and miracle worker. But there was so much they still didn’t know about Him. But Jesus assured them that even with their limited knowledge of Him, they knew God, because He was revealing God to them through His life and actions. He really was the way, the truth and the life. And He really was going to provide access to the Father through His coming death on the cross. It would all make sense to them eventually.

Philip, hearing all this talk of knowing God, asked Jesus to show the Father to them, and then they would be satisfied. Once again, Jesus responds with a statement that had to have deeply hurt Philip. “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am?” (John 14:9 NLT). The inference is that Philip still did not know or comprehend the deity of Jesus. He knew Him, but He didn’t know Him. His knowledge of Jesus was limited. Jesus told him, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you? (John 14:9 NLT). What Jesus wants Philip and the other disciples to grasp is that He and the Father are one. He is not just a representative of God, He is God in human flesh. He is divine. Seeing Him is as good as seeing the Father. Hearing from Him is as good as hearing from the Father. “The words I speak are not my own, but my Father who lives in me does his work through me” (John 14:10 NLT). This was news to the disciples. This intimate connection between Jesus and the Father had been unknown to them up until this point.

The main focus of this entire exchange between Jesus and the disciples seemed to be their knowledge of Him. Because ultimately, their belief about Jesus would need to be based on what they knew about Him. If their knowledge of Jesus was limited, so would their faith be. Jesus wanted them to know exactly who He was, so that they could believe. “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the seame works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with my Father” (John 14:12 NLT). The belief Jesus spoke of had to be based on His identity as the Son of God. His unity with the Father was to be the foundation of that belief. And ultimately, the disciples would do greater works than Jesus. This is not talking about greater miracles, but it is speaking about the scope and reach of their ministry. Jesus’ ministry was limited to a specific geographic area and only impacted a limited number of people, but the disciples would be responsible for helping spread the Good News of Jesus Christ around the world. Their efforts, when based on the name of Jesus, would be backed by the power of God and would therefore be unlimited. But it all began with their knowledge of who Jesus was.

And the same is true for us today. We must fully understand and grasp the significance of who Jesus is. For many of us, He is simply our Savior, which is important. But we must also recognize Him as our God and Sovereign. If we limit our understanding of Jesus, we will limit our belief in Jesus. If we fail to see Him as God and fully deserving of our full obedience, worship and honor, then our belief will be limited. Jesus came to provide us with more than just a ticket to heaven. He has given us access to God. We can know God through Him. We can experience the power of God because of Him. He is still the way, the truth and the life. It is still true that no one can come to the Father except through Him. No one can know the Father, but through Jesus. So the greater we grow to know Him, the more we will know God. And our belief will increase exponentially.

Father, help my unbelief. Help me to grow to know Jesus better and better every day. Open my eyes to the reality of who He is, the significance of His deity, His sovereignty and majesty. I want to know Him better so that I might know You more. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Day 14 – John 1:35-3:30

A New Ballgame.

John 1:35-3:30

“God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil.” – John 3:19 NLT

John records for us those early days of Jesus’ earthly ministry – from the choosing of His first few disciples to the wedding at Cana. Almost immediately, we begin to see Jesus’ deity revealed. Somehow Jesus was able to see Nathanael long before the two met, knowing that he had been sitting under a fig tree prior to Philip’s arrival to invite him to meet Jesus. This supernatural capability shocked Nathanael and caused him to exclaim, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God – the King of Israel!” (John 1:49 NLT). But Jesus tells him “You will see greater things than this” (John 1:50 NLT). These men are in for a wild ride. They have no idea what they are getting into as the follow Jesus. Each day is going to be an adventure, filled with excitement, confusion, awe, broken expectations, thrilling new insights, and mind-numbing lessons that make no sense.

They will watch as Jesus turns ordinary water into expensive wine. They’ll stand back in shock as He angrily clears the Temple of venders, shouting, “Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!” (John 2:16 NLT). They will scratch their heads in confusion as they listen to Jesus tell the religious leaders, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19 NLT). Everything about Jesus was surprising and shocking to them. He was not what they were expecting and the things He said and did were surprising, confusing and a little bit disconcerting. Their world was being rocked and their preconceived notions about life, religion, God and man were being turned upside down.

And then comes the nighttime visit from Nicodemus, the Pharisee. This well-educated religious leader made his way to Jesus after dark in order to keep his visit a secret. Jesus had already begun to make enemies of the religious leadership by virtue of His words and actions. He had begun to attract the attention of the people and cause an uproar, and the Pharisees were not amused. But Nicodemus was curious. He wanted to know more. He knew that Jesus had miraculous powers and must have been sent from God, but he was unclear as to just exactly who Jesus was and what He was doing. And like the disciples, Nicodemus got more than he bargained for in his meeting with Jesus. Nicodemus was part of the religious elite of the Jewish people. He was well-educated and viewed as extremely righteous. He was considered among the holiest and most godly of the people. And yet Jesus reveals to him some shocking news. “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God” (John 3:3 NLT). This was disconcerting news to Nicodemus. As a son of Abraham and a keeper of the Law, he had always viewed his place in God’s kingdom as a sure thing. And now Jesus tells him he must be “born again.” Not only that, but “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit,” Jesus says (John 3:5 NLT).

All Nicodemus can say in response is “How are these things possible?” (John 3:9 NLT).

He is confused. His brain is on overload. He is attempting to process information he has never heard before. He is being forced to reconcile what he is hearing with all that he has been taught over the years. Jesus is revealing to Nicodemus the truth regarding Himself and the truth about eternal life. It is not based on religious rule-keeping or hereditary purity. It is about the Son of God and belief in Him. “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NLT). That verse is very familiar and comfortable to us, but to Nicodemus it would have been like a hand grenade exploding in the closet of his mind. Everything he had counted on and staked his life on was being ripped to shreds. The rules were changing and requirements were being altered. It was all about belief. Eight different times in His conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus mentions the word, “believe.” He uses the imagery of the bronze serpent from the time of the Israelites wandering in the wilderness. Nicodemus would have been very familiar with it. Because of their disobedience, God had sent poisonous snakes to plague the people. He then instructed Moses to make a bronze snake and put it on a pole. If the people would listen to God’s word and look at the bronze serpent, they would be healed from snakebite. But if they refused to believe and do as God said, as crazy as it may have sounded or looked, they would die. Jesus tells Nicodemus, “so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes on him will have eternal life” (John 3:14 NLT). Belief in Jesus as the Son of God and the remedy for man’s sin was the requirement. But Jesus knew that not everyone was going to believe. Not everyone was going to accept this new requirement. “God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil” (John 3:19 NLT). Just as there were those who refused to look at the bronze serpent and died in the wilderness, so there were going to be those who refused to believe in Jesus and die in their sins. Jesus was giving Nicodemus a choice to make. Did it sound illogical? Yes. Did it appear improbable? Most certainly. Could Nicodemus have found it all unacceptable? Of course. But that is the nature of belief. It requires faith. It demands trust. It necessitates risk. But it is all based on love – the love of God. “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son…” (John 3:16 NLT).

Father, Your Son rocked the world. He shattered all preconceived notions and broke down all the man-made constructs that attempted to explain You and promote the path to righteousness. He is still rocking our world today. Sometimes it is so hard to simply believe. It is so difficult to just trust. We feel like we have to do it all. We are so performance driven. We want to earn our good standing with You by doing good works for You. But it has always been about Your Son. He is the key. For both salvation and sanctification. Never let me forget that. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org