Human Effort

Everything Depends on God's Mercy


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Prana and Limitless Living

prana

The body is finite. It is temporary. No amount of pranic living or wishful thinking will change that. Without water a person might live two excruciatingly painful weeks? But air and sun are all a person needs according to Breatharians the hot new lifestyle that graced the pages of the New York Post recently.

Breatharians are nothing new. They claim to have reached a higher stage where they are able to draw nourishment and energy from the air and sun. Underlying this philosophy is the Hindu idea of prana which is a Sanskrit word for life giving force. These Breatharians claim that being free from earthly purists of hunger and that allows them to be limitless and live healthier lives. But this is nothing new it is a rehash of old Hindu ideals and leads one to the path of pantheist religions. Pantheism identifies god with the universe. Everything is god. A chair, a tree, an animal, the air, light, or a planet. Starwars promoting the Jedi force is pantheism. Jedi could live a pranic lifestyle. One assumes that a Jedi might prefer the Breatharian model of life. Who does not want those mind over matter kinds of ability? The ability to tap into a god that flows through everything is an interesting allure. This is an idea that takes many forms and is taught in many ways. It is an idea that mankind can rise above the limitations of this body. Maybe even live forever.

But these ideas, this spiritual “think good thoughts” and live limitless, are contrary to reality and the history of the Biblical Genesis all people are forced to deal with. The Creator God confirms that these bodies for both men and women are finite, constrained, and broken. People, all people, including the pantheist trying to live a pranic life, are cursed and doomed to the limitations of a finite physical existence.

…cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:17b-19 ESV

God put limits on the human condition. He promised his creation that it would not be physically immortal like some undead zombie or evil vampire. Now there is a curious truth about God that further proves the point and at the same time gives perfect hope in the future that God has for His creation.

That truth is the nature of who Jesus is and what he accomplished on earth. First is the nature of Jesus to understand who is this Jesus. Unlike the pantheist drawing energy from the air and sun the Christian follower of Christ embraces reality of the temporary nature of life. Christians follow Jesus and Jesus is no ordinary man. Jesus is the living incarnation of the creator God himself. Does that shock? Is that a surprise? Jesus is God and Jesus claimed to be God. Not a god or someone who tapped into the god spirit of the universe. Jesus is the one true God.

58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” John 8:58 ESV

Speaking to the Hebrew religious audience Jesus tells them before Abraham the first Hebrew was born that Jesus himself existed. This claim was taken as blasphemy by the audience. This claim is the excuse and the how for Jesus ending up dead on a cross. Look at the very next verse at the reaction to Jesus claiming divinity.

So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple. John 8:59 ESV

This is the nature of Jesus. It answers the “Who” question. He is God in the flesh. God taking on the limitations of a human body. God come to man for reconciliation and restoration of the curse given to men at the dawn of creation. Understanding the nature of Jesus, who is God, now we can look at what he accomplished and how that accomplishment flies in the face of anyone, like the breatharians, trying to live infinite limitless lives in a finite limited world.

Jesus, who is God, is well known for fasting and focused times of prayer. Jesus clearly states that he and the Father are one because Jesus is God.

I and the Father are one. The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. John 10:30-31 ESV

Jesus who is God, that is his nature, is also finite and limited. Jesus is constrained by the body he has taken. God limited himself when he took the form of a man. Jesus in accomplishing the restoring and relational ends of his ministry had to leave. He was on earth for a short season and then returned to his own house. Living forever without food or without limitations on this earth is not possible for people. Doing so is outside of God’s plans and is contrary to the curse given to our forefather at the beginning. Jesus was not limitless so how can any other person break that constraint?

7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. John 16:7 ESV

Jesus told his followers, the disciples, that he would go away so that the Helper would come to them. Jesus, who is God, is limited by the constraints of flesh and time. Jesus, who is God, in the form of a man is limited. He cannot speak with all people or be in place to comfort every soul. What is needed for this is the Holy Spirit the third person of the trinity. The Holy Spirit is not bound by time, food, or physical constraints. The Holy Spirit moves among men in all places always.

17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. Romans 14:17-18 ESV

Jesus then demonstrates the limited nature of man by first doing what we could not do for ourselves. That is paying the cost of sin by death on the cross and reconciling those following after him to God. And second by returning to the Father and providing the infinite Helper to those followers. The one Holy Spirit that moves among us at all times and all places even while we individually are constrained to the limitations of nature.

If being free from the constrains of this world are in your heart then repent of your rebellion and turn toward Jesus who reconciles the temporary broken people of creation to the endless perfect Creator.


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They Followed Jesus Anyway

easter

The Resurrection of Christ is real and we know it to be legitimate based on the reaction from His followers. Most of the disciples and many of the close associates of Christ died unnatural deaths proclaiming a risen Jesus. If a resurrected Jesus was simply a plot hatched by these disciples then what are the odds that they would give up worldly advancement only to most likely die for that lie? The reason conspiracies are untrue or fail to get off the ground if they might have been true is that the more people involved the more likely it is that someone will break and give up the lie. Now a resurrected Jesus alive and meeting with his followers was no isolated event. Jesus over many days and weeks appeared to hundreds of people.

3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 ESV

With this many people involved in a conspiracy how could it last? There is no tradition that any of the disciples rejected the gospel, but there is tradition that they died for this gospel. In the Gospel of John there is an interesting exchange between Peter and Jesus relating to the future hardships and death that Peter would encounter for Christ. After Jesus told Peter that he would die, Peter asked Jesus about John. John the author of this narrative with some years between the conversation and the time of recording the history seems to interject an understanding that the disciples knew they were going to be martyred for the gospel and some most likely had already seen that end.

Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?” John 21:20-23 ESV

Jesus also warned the disciples that by following him they would pay a price, that they would not be popular, and he even uses the word “hate” to describe how the world would feel about them. Even today Christians die for proclaiming a risen Jesus and celebrating Easter.

19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. John 15:19-20 ESV

Much of what is listed here is tradition, but with any tradition there is a foundation of truth even if the exact details have been lost. I believe it is safe to take away that many of the original followers of Christ died teaching and preaching about Easter.

Simon (Peter)

Church tradition holds that Peter was crucified upside down by the Romans around 65 AD. He requested to be crucified upside down because he felt unworthy to die the same way as Jesus.

[Jesus speaking to Peter] Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” John 21:18 ESV

Andrew (Peter’s Brother)

Church tradition holds that Andrew was crucified around 69 AD.

James (Son of Zebedee brother of John)

Luke in the book of Acts records how James was killed along with other followers by Herod around 44 AD.

About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword Acts 12:1-2 ESV

Saul (Paul)

Church tradition holds that Paul was imprisoned with Peter and then eventually beheaded around 65 AD.

James (The brother of Jesus)

James was one of the leaders of the church in Jerusalem (Galatians 1:19) and the church tradition holds that he was thrown from one of the higher walls of the temple. When his attackers realized he survived the fall they had him beaten to death with a club (gotquestions.org).

*Revised and Edited. Originally published on Human Effort in April 2014.


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Love Me

love

What makes a Christian a Christian? Does following Christ restrict life to a burdensome set of rules? Why do followers of Jesus attempt to live lives based on out of date rules of the Bible? Do they do this out of fear of being crushed by a vengeful God? Do they just want to escape hell for heaven?

If one wants to follow God there are two basic motivations for an honest person. The first motivation and the way that most people understand following God is through the Law. The Law is best represented by the Ten Commandments and the Old Testament covenants. It goes like this, and should be familiar to most everyone the world over, if you keep a set of rules then hopefully your good actions will outweigh your bad actions before God. This is religion at the core. Do this or bad stuff will happen. Do this or lightning bolts will fall from the sky. The second motivation for following God that is less understood is the role of faith and what Jesus accomplished on the Cross. This second motivation is real and is God’s actual intention. Christ and what He accomplished, not Religion, is the only motivation that is acceptable to God.

The old way, with laws etched in stone, led to death, though it began with such glory that the people of Israel could not bear to look at Moses’ face. For his face shone with the glory of God, even though the brightness was already fading away. Shouldn’t we expect far greater glory under the new way, now that the Holy Spirit is giving life? If the old way, which brings condemnation, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new way, which makes us right with God! In fact, that first glory was not glorious at all compared with the overwhelming glory of the new way. So if the old way, which has been replaced, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new, which remains forever! 2 Corinthians 3:7-11 NLT

God called Moses to the mountain where Moses received the laws of God. It was at this time that God’s glory was reflected from the face of Moses even after he had left the presence of God (Exodus 34:29-35). Paul tells us that the new way of faith with a life giving Holy Spirit makes the old way of keeping the law obsolete. This new way of fulfilling the law is accomplished through the work of Jesus and the overpowering love He has poured out on His followers. While the commands of Jesus are founded on the Law of the old way the motivation for obedience cannot be the same as the old way of attempting to follow the rules.

For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. Romans 13:9-10 ESV

The natural state of humans is not love, but suspicion, selfishness, and sarcasm (don’t believe me go spend some time on twitter). So where does this love that leads to keep the Ten Commandments come from? That love comes from faith in Jesus by way of the Holy Spirit working in His followers.

Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith… For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” Galatians 3:5; 10-11 ESV

The motivation of a follower of Christ, a Christian, can be summed up in the depth of this following statement by Jesus to His disciples.

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. John 14:15 ESV

I am compelled to follow, listen, and obey Jesus because of love. Fear of hell or condemnation may have been a concern at some point in my life. But I am a Christian because of the overflow of Love that comes from Christ to me. I am overwhelmed by that love. That love comes from the faith I have received from Him. By faith I trust Him and acknowledge His authority as my Creator. Because He loves me I love Him and I pray that my motivation in everything is to obey Him because of love.

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 1 John 5:3 ESV

*Revised and Edited. First published on Human Effort Sept 2013.

 


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John 5:24 | Darkness Before the Light

death

This week my own world overlapped with a tragic event, a death that has altered my summer plans. This tragedy has provided an opportunity for reflection on life, suffering, and if God is just. In June a church youth group stopped at the National White Water Center in Charlotte, NC. My travel plans also include a stop at this location about a month later however the Center is now temporarily closed because of the death. While at the Center a young lady contracted a form of meningitis that eventually lead to her death a week later. The cause is an ameba that is found in fresh water streams and lakes all over the southeast United States. Cases are very rare but devastating none the less. The Center is closed until they can find the source of the pathogen.

My heart goes out to the family and community where this young lady calls home and I pray that through the grief comfort might be found in Christ in whom salvation and life is real. Why would God permit or allow such a dangerous thing to happen? Does the blame fall on God, the Center, or was it just random? If random then the blame should fall on God right? If you like me live on this planet then bad things will happen regardless of who you, where you live, or what kind of relationship you have with God.

44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. Matthew 5:44-45 ESV

Jesus speaking about the need to love all people even those who are unlikeable reminds the disciples that if they live on this earth that tragedy and blessing will befall all regardless of how just and wonderful they might or might not be. The young lady and her family suffered tragedy this summer and many families in similar way be it accidents or natural causes suffer tragedy every day the world over. That is an ever present reality of how short and temporary life on earth will be regardless of how good or bad one lives life. We are brothers and sisters all caught up in the human condition.

There was a tragic and shocking event that happened in the news during the time of Jesus that everyone was talking about. A tower in part of the city collapsed and eighteen people were killed. An act of God one might claim. Did they deserve to die? Why did others escape? What is just about this and what was God thinking? Some of the eighteen might have been the most wonderful and loving people in the community. Why? Jesus brought it up…

4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? Luke 13:4 ESV

Common in that day was the thought that those that died must have been worse than everyone else. They must have done something to deserve it. Jesus answers the question but before that I want to back up to the book of Job. This book is about a righteous man who lived a moral devoted life to God. His life is blessed beyond measure in family and wealth. However tragedy strikes quickly in such a way that his children are dead and his wealth is lost. The community morns with him and a few of his friends come to sit with him. After some time they begin a dialog on how God operates and one of Job’s friends “reminds” Job that God would never punish the innocent and blames Job for the situation in that he must be reaping some form of punishment for his actions.

7 “Remember: who that was innocent ever perished? Or where were the upright cut off? 8 As I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same. 9 By the breath of God they perish, and by the blast of his anger they are consumed. Job 4:7-9 ESV

His friends asked Job to repent for whatever he had done to deserve such tragedy in this life but God intervenes and tells these friends that they have assumed wrongly. This tragedy in Job’s life had nothing to do with living a just or unjust life. In fact Job himself answered the issue right up front and was further confirmed by God in the end.

JOB: Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad? Job 2:10b NLT

GOD: 6 Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind: 7 “Brace yourself like a man, because I have some questions for you, and you must answer them. 8 “Will you discredit my justice and condemn me just to prove you are right? Job 40:6-8 NLT

God’s plans are perfect and tragedy is allowed and permitted by God for His own reasons and planning. Sometimes He provides a window into those reasons and sometimes he does not. Jesus provided a little more perspective into this when he answered his own question about the tragedy at the tower. He asked if the people who died were more deserving than those who lived. What do you think?

5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Luke 13:5 ESV

Tough answer. All are going to die. All are going to be overcome at some point and perish no matter how “good” of a person they have been in this life. R.C. Sproul puts the answer from Jesus in these terms. “Jesus was reminding His hearers that there is ultimately no such thing as an innocent person (except Him). Thus, we should not be amazed by the justice of God but by the grace of God. We should be asking why towers do not fall on us each and every day.”

Why God do I even still have life and breath? I should have died so many times and I can think of several instances from my past right away. I am here right now because He gave me life, and he has sustained my life. I deserve nothing but death for the wages of my sins and rebellion. When I look on this tragedy and I pray that all would take a moment to reflect and give thanks to God that in his mercy he has provided an opportunity to know him.

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life John 5:24 ESV


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John 20:9 | Rise and be Alive!

Easter

It is a day that would become the first Easter, the resurrection of Jesus from death, a day that started like any other and as normal as any morning in a world of sin, grief, and death. Those who loved Jesus have come to tend the still fresh grave. Mary Magdalene one of His followers unexpectedly finds the grave disturbed and the body missing. She runs to tell this terrible news to Peter and John but they too are confused and dismayed.

9 for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. John 20:9 ESV

It is clear to the modern reader of this gospel what has happened because Easter is an event that is celebrated and has been celebrated for a few thousand years. That Jesus destroyed death for all people of every tribe and nation. The disciples and the followers of Christ did not yet fully understand this event that was occurring right before their eyes. They were confused and overwhelmed. John writes that he did not understand at that moment what was happening. To most familiar with what John is communicating this is hard to believe because Jesus told the disciples plainly exactly what was going to happen.

17 And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, 18 “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death 19 and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.” Matthew 20:17-19 ESV

Because of His relationship with the Father and because He was executing the Father’s will perfectly Jesus was in complete control of the future events and Jesus knew the purpose and the outcome.

My post today is to celebrate the wonder of this event and to acknowledge it before others that I am a follower of Jesus because of what God accomplished through Him. But maybe the reader of this post is familiar with the Easter event but not the message and significance of what occurred. Why must Jesus be raised from the dead? What is the purpose and point of this Easter event that makes it an annual celebration and the most important day of observance in the Christian life?

Peter who was confused on that first Easter morning not understanding what Jesus had told him plainly and not understanding the scriptures preaches his first sermon on this very topic. Peter now clearly understands and answers the question about the purpose of Christ and His resurrection on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit arrives to establish the Church.

31 [King David] foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, 35 until I make your enemies your footstool.”’ 36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Acts 2:31-36 ESV

Peter tells us that Jesus is raised from death to life by God the Creator to exalt Jesus as the King of Kings. King David acknowledges this future Jesus as his Lord a greater king than himself. God exalts to Jesus to His rightful place a throne next to God the Father. All power and authority both in life and in death is given to this King and Lord.

9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. Romans 14:9 ESV

I am part of the creation and I submit to the Creator who reigns over life and death. He has conquered death and extended to all who accept Him life eternal and free. That is why Easter is so important. That is why Easter has been celebrated annually for thousands of years by every nation and tribe.

24 It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. Romans 4:24-25 ESV

Jesus was convicted and sentenced to die for my sins. He paid the criminal’s wage of death on my behalf. Then three days later Mary discovered what Jesus had told them to be true that He was raised to life, the victor, to justify me before God that I a sinner who should be dead is given life and relationship with God the Father and Creator. Easter is upon us once again pointing the way to justification and mercy before God. If you have not already done so admit your selfishness and rebellion against God and submit to the Salvation of Jesus Christ.

18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit 1 Peter 3:18 ESV


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John 21: A Confirmed Love for Jesus

Sea_of_Galilee

Chapter 21 is the final chapter in the Gospel of John. So much has been written and John has captured for history some amazing events. There are signs and wonders, changed lives, and Jesus himself resurrected. So what is left so share? What is next for the disciples?

3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. John 21:3 ESV

If I asked my closest friends, and coworkers to go fishing it would be considered a diversion or vacation type of trip. Fishing is a recreational event for me. However fishing for Peter was something more. It was a business and a way of life for Peter. Fishing was his profession from before he encountered Jesus.

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. Matthew 4:18 ESV

Peter has been through an amazing ride for the last several years seeing and hearing amazing things since that first day he abandoned the fishing business. But the ride is over. Jesus presented himself as a resurrected savior, and Jesus did not set up an earthly kingdom to overthrow the Romans so what was left for Peter to do? It is time to move on. Peter is doing what would only be natural and that is to go back to the life he knew before Jesus. The life of a fisherman.

Peter’s first day back in business is not successful and a stranger yelling from the shore tells the men to cast their net on the other side of the boat. They give it a try and the net fills to overflowing with fish. Having witnessed signs and been in the presence of Jesus for several years this unlikely catch of fish draws immediate attention of the disciples on the boat.

7 That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. John 21:7 ESV

Peter’s move to go back to the work and business of fishing was not born out of a passion or a heart to be a fisherman anymore. It was born out of a lack of any other direction for life. At the first mention of Jesus Peter abandons the financial haul of fish and jumps in the sea to swim back to shore. His passion and desire is still with Jesus whom has returned once again. This event is the third time Jesus has appeared to the disciples with the first two being in the upper room. The first without Thomas and the second with Thomas present. Jesus has a specific goal in this third appearance to restore Peter and give him a new mission for life that does not include the old life as a fisherman.

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. John 21:15-17 ESV

Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him an obvious reference to the number of times Peter rejected Jesus at the crucifixion. It is clear from every move and word that Peter loves Jesus and it is obvious that his passion resides with his Savior. One can just see these men sitting around a fire on the beach eating some of the freshly caught fish. Jesus spreads his hand out to the fish, the boat, and the shoreline… “Peter do you love me more than these?” do you love me more than this life? Do you love what the world provides more than me? Peter with all sincerity answers that Jesus is his first love. He is not the same man that he was before when Jesus first encountered him on that shoreline.

Jesus as demonstrated from the opening of John as the Word made flesh through the crucifixion that he is in complete control of everything securing the will of the Father. Even when Jesus called Peter years before notice his prophetic message.

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.” Matthew 4:18-19 ESV

Jesus promised to give Peter a new profession. Jesus told Peter that he would be a fisher of men and here we are at the conclusion of John with Jesus giving charge to Peter to be head of his future church. Tend my Sheep and feed my flock Jesus tells Peter. Peter is forever changed and there is no returning to his old life. What about you? Have you encountered the very Creator of this world? Have you been born again as Jesus told Nicodemas? Have you believed in the resurrected Savior like Thomas in the upper room? Have you been given a new commission on life like Peter here at the conclusion of this Gospel? Now is the time to reconcile with Jesus, the word made flesh, the only name under heaven that can save us from condemnation, and Immanuel God with us.


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John 18: Jesus Your Will not Mine

IMAG0845The end is drawing close and all that Jesus has been preparing the disciples for is coming to a conclusion. Judas having become disillusioned and realizing that Jesus was not going to make him wealthy has traded Jesus in for silver. But what is interesting here is that Peter is carrying a sword and he intends to start a war with it.

3 So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. 4 Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” 5 They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. 6 When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. 7 So he asked them again, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” 8 Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.” 9 This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: “Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.” 10 Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) 11 So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” John 18:3-11 ESV

Cutting off a man’s ear was not Peter’s intent. His intent was to kill. But Jesus in his final recorded healing restores the enemy. Jesus then asks Peter to stand down and put the sword away forever. The question then is why on earth would Jesus allow his disciples to carry swords? Maybe that was not a sword but a dagger or a butcher blade of some kind? A look at the Greek used here to describe the weapon Peter is carrying is the same Greek word used in other places to mean an actual sword. Look here for example in Acts…

27 When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. Acts 16:27 ESV

The roman jailer having let the prisoners escape pulled out his sword to kill himself. This is the same word used to describe the sword Peter carried that night. I wonder if the sword that Peter carried was even legal? In today’s context we might say that Judas brought the armed guard not with “lanterns and torches and weapons” but with guns and assault rifles. Peter in the context would not have drawn a sword to attack but a gun. Illegal in most circumstances and highly questionable for the follower of Jesus. Why then would Jesus allow it? Why did Peter have it? Peter kept the sword because deep down he still wanted Jesus to be king just like Judas had previously wanted Jesus to be king. Peter expected an armed uprising with Jesus being the victorious ruler of Jerusalem. Even the high priest expected that questioning Jesus about the same.

19 The high priest then questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. 20 Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. John 18:19-20 ESV

The priest needed to know from Jesus if the city would riot and had he planned an armed rebellion. Jesus just arrived into Jerusalem in triumph days before with the people crying out “Hosanna to the Son of David” (Matthew 21:9). Had he gathered an army? Was he poised to start war with Rome? Jesus assured the priest that he had nothing to hide. That all he had done was done in the open. Then Pilate asked Jesus for much of the same information.

33 So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” 35 Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” John 18:33-36 ESV

Jesus told Pilate that if his kingdom was on earth at this time then Pilate would have already been removed from power. Pilate believed him and told the Jews that he found nothing to charge Jesus with. Everyone from Peter, to Judas, to the Pharisees, to even Pilate himself wanted to know or believed that Jesus was here to establish an earthly kingdom. Jesus never held that intention because his plan was greater than a single earthly kingdom. So then why did Jesus allow Peter to carry a sword?

To answer that question we need to go back to the last supper right before Jesus is taken to provide an answer.

35 And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” 36 He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. 37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” 38 And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.” Luke 22:35-38 ESV

Jesus used the sword to provide an object lesson to the disciples that they would remember in the future in context to a risen savior and he wanted the sword to fulfil prophecy (Isaiah 53:12). Jesus needed to be put to death by the most scandalous and lowly of means. Death on a cross. He needed to be hung on a cross between two thieves “and he was numbered with the transgressors”. Jesus looked at disciples when they showed him two swords and he replied that is “enough”. Two swords is not enough to start a war but it is enough to be looked on as a transgressor starting a rebellion.

John shows us in this gospel that Jesus is in complete control and moves about with a goal of reconciling men and women to himself. Everyone around Jesus wanted to use him for their own ambitions or they feared him because they were afraid we would undo their personal ambitions. Jesus demonstrates that we can submit our dreams and ambitions to him. His will is better than our best dreams. Do you trust him? Are you ready to serve him and be reconciled to him? Then repent and run into the arms of the reconciliation that Jesus provides.