[All Scripture references are from the English Standard Version of the Christian Bible.]
Christmas 2014 is almost here. Parents are wrapping up their children’s Christmas gifts while they are away at school or sleeping in their beds. Others are wrapping up their Christmas shopping by buying last minute stocking [or cheek] stuffers [If you’re Dave Seville or my sister Jane, don’t forget the walnuts! – inside joke for a later time.]. If you are like me, you have to do gift shopping at the last minute because you can’t wait to give out the gifts [Why wait until Christmas when I already have the gifts for you today?]. Once again, I am going to try and wrap up my blog series, “What’s the Matter with Jesus?” This time I am going to do it. I can feel it.
Why did Jesus bring with Him Peter, James and John up to the “Mount of Transfiguration”? [See Matthew 17:1-13, Mark 9:2-13, Luke 9:28-36].
Peter, James and John seemed to be in Jesus’ inner circle. Each one appeared to have a closer relationship with Jesus because He took them with Him to places He did not take the other disciples. For example, when Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead Peter, James and John were the only ones allowed in the room [See Mark 5:37-43]. Also, Jesus took these three with Him “deeper” into the Garden of Gethsemane to pray with Him before His arrest and crucifixion [See Mark 14:33-42]. Peter, James and John were the only ones to see Jesus “greatly distressed and troubled”, at least during the times they weren’t sleeping [See vv. 37-38]. We know Peter as always running off at the mouth, saying the wrong thing at the wrong time and hardly ever thinking before speaking. For example, during the “Transfiguration”, “…Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good that we are here. If You wish, I will make three tents here, one for You and one for Moses and one for Elijah’” [Matthew 17:4]. This was not what Jesus had in mind at the time. Peter was still speaking when all three disciples fell to the ground in fear of what was happening right before their eyes and what they were hearing with their own ears. Jesus knew Peter needed extra “tutoring”, as well as prayers [See Luke 22:32]. James and his brother John appeared to be “mama’s boys” when they had their mother ask Jesus to give them a seat on each side of Him in His kingdom [See Matthew 20:2-28, Mark 10:35-45]. But Jesus knew there was more to James and John than met the eye. Jesus called them “sons of thunder” [See Mark 3:17]. We see an example of why Jesus chose this nick-name when Jesus was rejected by a Samaritan village. Luke 9:54 records, “And when His disciples James and John saw it, they said, ‘Lord, do You want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?’” It seems like Peter was not the only one with “foot-in-mouth” disease.
In spite of their human frailties, Jesus picked Peter, James and John to be leaders and examples for His early Church. Later, John and Peter would write some of books in the New Testament. John wrote the Gospel of John, which is very different from the Synoptic Gospels. John who was once interested in fame and power, did not mention his name as its writer, but referred to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” [See 13:23, 19:26, 21:7]. The Gospel of John is about Jesus and His relationship with God, with creation, and with mankind: “In the beginning was the Word [Jesus], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” [1:1-5]. The most quoted verse in the Bible is in the Gospel of John, which talks about God’s love for mankind and His desire and initiative in restoring people to a right relationship with Him: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” [3:16]. John also talks about God’s divine justice: “Whoever believes in Him [Jesus] is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” [3:18]. John’s purpose for writing the Gospel is “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His Name”[20:31]. John also wrote three Epistles encouraging believers to keep walking in the light of Christ by loving one another, what it means to be children of God and correcting those who had wandered from the faith. Once again, John’s humility is evident by making no reference of himself in his first epistle; and in the second and third he identifies himself as an “elder.” Lastly, John wrote the Book of Revelation, in which he identifies himself as “His servant John” or just “John” [See 1:1,4]. The Book of Revelation gives us a taste of Jesus’ Second Coming; the rewards which will be given to those who believe in Jesus and “die in the Lord” [See 14:12-13]. John also warns those who do not believe what it will be like to be eternally separated from God [See 20:11-14].
Peter wrote two Epistles. I Peter encourages persecuted Christians to remember how Jesus suffered for them and to follow His example by trusting God and living holy lives. II Peter was written to encourage believers in the Truth, warn them of false teachers and wait patiently for the Day of the Lord [3:1-8]. James, the brother of John and the son of Zebedee, did not last long after Pentecost but was killed by Herod Agrippa I [See Acts 12:1-2]. Why would Jesus have James, the brother of John, in His inner circle only to die a martyr’s death? Humanly speaking, this is extremely difficult to comprehend. In my personal opinion [Remember, I am not a theologian, nor do I play one in cyber-space], Jesus knew that James would die an early death, and that was precisely why Jesus took him by His side and let him see a little of what heaven was like on the “Mount of Transfiguration.” I also believe James’ death strengthened the early Church and the resolve of Jesus’ followers to continue on with the mission He gave them to do: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” [Matthew 18:19-20].
[The other James was the “son of Alphaeus” [See Mark 3:18], or other Bible scholars believe he was Jesus’ brother, who is generally credited with writing the Book of James, in the New Testament, and who was an elder in the church in Jerusalem (See Acts 15:13-18). Jesus appeared to this James after His resurrection (See I Corinthians 15:7). For more study of Jesus’ inner circle, a good website to go to [which I used] is:
Let’s backtrack a bit to when Jesus, Peter, James and John [the sons of Zebedee] were coming down from the “Mount of Transfiguration”. Jesus told them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead” and He also explained that John the Baptist was Elijah [See Matthew 17:9-13]. Later on, Peter wrote about his experience on the “Mount of Transfiguration”: “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eye witnesses of His majesty. For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to Him by the Majestic Glory, ‘This is My beloved Son, with Whom I am well pleased,’ we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with Him on the holy mountain” [II Peter 1:16-18).
Jesus took Peter, James and John and prepared them to do great things for the body of Christ, His Church, made up of all who came to believe in Him through their witness. These three apostles were mightily used of God beginning with Pentecost, especially Peter and John. Peter acted as spokesman for the apostles on the Day of Pentecost, in his magnificent sermon concerning the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. When people heard Peter’s powerful words, three thousand responded to the Holy Sprit and opened their hearts to Christ asking, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter responded, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” [See Acts 2:37-41]. In Act 3:1-10, Peter and John healed a man who was lame from birth. In the rest of chapter three, Peter delivered another Spirit-filled sermon, which led the religious leaders to stop and take notice. Acts 4:13 records, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized they had been with Jesus.” Peter and John’s boldness came from the special times they spent with Jesus, Who saw leadership qualities in them. He knew what they needed was the Gift of the Holy Spirit to make these qualities come to fruition.
Who was Jesus talking to when He said, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you?” [See Matthew 17:17, Mark 9:19, Luke 9:41]. Who was the “faithless and twisted generation” who frustrated God the Son? Was there any hope for them? Is there any hope for us?
When studying a portion of Scripture, it is important to read it in context; read what happened before and what happened after the specific Scripture account being looked at. Taking all that we read in the past weeks, it’s obvious that Jesus was angry and frustrated with both the religious leaders and His disciples
He left behind to heal people [See Matthew 10:5-15, Mark 6:7-11, Luke 9:1-6]. When I use the word “frustrated” to describe Jesus’ words, I do not mean His will was “thwarted” or “hindered” in any way. His “frustration” came from seeing how sin controlled people’s hearts and knowing how much better it would be for them to repent and trust in Him by simply doing what He taught. He was angry and frustrated with the religious leaders because, of all people, they knew every “jot” and “tittle” of the Old Testament, including the prophecies regarding the Messiah. Yet, they refused to believe in Jesus because they did not want to give up their power over the people. Jesus was angered at their callous disregard for the suffering of the father and the boy with the “evil spirit”. They were more interested in arguing with Jesus’ disciples. Jesus was angry and frustrated with His disciples because they were not doing what He taught them to do. Instead, the disciples were more interested in bickering with the religious leaders. When the disciples asked Jesus, “Why could we not cast it out?”, Jesus answered, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer” [See Mark 9:28-29]. It was obvious to Jesus that the disciples did not have an “attitude of prayer” when they met the father and his tormented son. I Thessalonians 5:17 teaches, “pray without ceasing.” If the disciples had an “attitude of praying without ceasing”, they would have been able to see the needs of the father and his son as Jesus would. Instead of arguing with the religious leaders, they would be praying for them [See Matthew 5:44]. Having the mind of Christ [an attitude of prayer] is the only way to accomplish God’s will. The same goes for us. Instead of arguing with each other, we need to pray for each other “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God” [See Ephesians 4:13].
One more question: Did Jesus give up on the disciples and the religious leaders of the day?
The answer is an emphatic “NO!” Luke 10:1-12 tells us that Jesus again sent out his disciples to tell others the GOOD NEWS of the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. This time, He was sending out seventy-two of His follows. Also, some of the religious leaders did come to faith in Jesus. For example, a Pharisee named Nicodemus may have come to faith as he listened to Jesus explain how to be “born
again” [See John 3:1-15]. Also, a scribe who was listening to Jesus teaching about “Which commandment was the most important of all” engaged in a conversation with Jesus and at the end of the conversation, Jesus said to the scribe, “You are not far from the kingdom of God” [See Mark 12:28-34]. Lastly, “Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus [after Jesus died on the cross]…and laid Him in a tomb” [See Mark 15:42-47].
Because Jesus did not give up on His first disciples and the religious leaders of the day, I know that Jesus will not give up on us. Jesus will not give up on me.
“And I am sure of this, that He Who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” [Philippians 1:6].
“He Who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it” [I Thessalonians 5:24].
As they say in the making of movies, “That’s a wrap!”
“And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” [Luke 2:12].
“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under to law, so that they might receive adoption as sons [children]. And because you are sons [God’s children], God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father [Daddy]!’ So you are no longer a slave [to sin], but a son [child], and if a son [child], then an heir through God” [Galatians 4: 4-7].
May Jesus Himself be our Peace” at Christmastime and always! [See Ephesians 2:14-21]