1 The Twelve Disciples
"And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles; Simon, (whom he also named Peter,) and Andrew his brother, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew, Matthew and Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon called Zelotes, And Judas the brother of James, and Judas Iscariot, which also was the traitor." Luke 6:12-16
The twelve disciples had an in important role in the ministry of Jesus. They spent just over three years in the fellowship of Jesus listening and learning from the Master. The miracles they saw, and the teachings they heard, coupled with the gift of the Holy Spirit gave them what they needed to carry on the Christian faith for the future of the entire universe. We are believers today because someone cared enough to tell us about the Savior. Those disciples and a few more believers met in the upper room after Jesus died and the church was born. From the beginning, Jesus knew what trials these early followers would have to endure. He knew what faith it would take for them to follow Him. He also knew that Judas Iscariot would betray Him for thirty pieces of silver. Notice His preparation for calling these twelve disciples to follow Him. "And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God." Jesus knew the importance of prayer. He stayed in fellowship and communion with His heavenly Father. Let's look at the early disciples of Jesus and see their strengths. We can also remember that they were human, just like us, so we will also see some of their weaknesses. My closing thought for the day is, if Jesus knew that it was so important to pray that He "continued all night in prayer to God", shouldn't we spend more time in prayer?
2 Follow Me
"And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him." Matthew 4:18-20
As we begin our study on the Disciples of Jesus we see a common thread among them. When Jesus said, "Follow me", they all followed Him. They left their homes, their families, and their jobs to follow Jesus. He called and they answered their call. What about you? I believe that Jesus is still calling men and women, boys and girls to follow Him. We read in Luke 9:23, "And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." We also read in John 10:27, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:" Jesus did not say that we are mules, although many of us act like that from time to time. Mules are stubborn and if they don't want to go, they just sit down right where they are. Jesus did not say that we are puppies, running ahead and sniffing from place to place, darting here and there. He said that we are His sheep. When the Good Shepherd calls, His sheep follow Him. I am so thankful that one day I heard the voice of Jesus calling to my heart to follow Him. If you are having a hard time deciding who to follow or which way to go, I fully recommend that you follow Jesus. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life!
Many people know what it is like to be overshadowed by a successful brother or sister. Whether it is simply comparisons made by friends and family while you are in school, or insensitive and unflattering comparisons made to adult siblings, the results can hurt. Andrew's brother was none other than the great disciple Simon Peter. We will look at Peter's good and bad characteristics later, but he was truly a great leader. He is considered one of the leaders of the early church, and was very charismatic and outspoken. Andrew, on the other hand, was somewhat quiet. According to John 1:40, he was one of the first disciples to hear Jesus speak. Then in the next verses, we see his prominent characteristic. "He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith to him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. And he brought him to Jesus." He may not have been a leader, but we always see him taking people to Jesus. He is responsible for taking Simon Peter to see the Lord.
We see this same trait again in John 6:8-9. When there is a great multitude that needs food for lunch, notice what Andrew does. "One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, saith unto him, There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?" It is interesting that even John in his gospel account refers to Andrew as "Simon Peter's brother". There is no telling how many times he heard that phrase in his life. And in this story, Andrew's faith is as weak as the others, and he acknowledges that the small lunch the boy has is almost insignificant. But he still brings the boy to Jesus. We may not be leaders, and our faith may be weak, but we can still point others to Him.
The third instance of this trait of Andrew's is in John 12:20-22. When a group of Greek people (Gentiles) come to join the disciples for worship, they go up to Philip and say, "Sir, we would see Jesus." Philip wasn't certain of what to do, so he asks Andrew. And what does Andrew do? He takes the question (and possibly the Greeks themselves) to Jesus. We may not be certain of the proper thing to do, or exactly how a certain situation fits our doctrine. But we should follow Andrew's example, and take it to Jesus.
Another of the lesser-known disciples, Philip's name means "lover of horses." And it only takes a little imagination to picture him as a quiet, reserved "Christian cowboy." His quiet character is revealed in the account of his calling to be a disciple. In John 1:40-42 we see Andrew and Peter going to Jesus. But in verses 43-44 it is Jesus who goes to Philip. His calling is simple and to the point. "The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith to him, Follow me.Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter."
But then watch what happens: "Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. And Nathanael said unto him, Can any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see." When Philip tells Nathanael about finding the Messiah, Nathanael's reaction is one of prejudice. Nazareth was a place of bad reputation, and Nathanael questions whether anything good could come out of such a place. Notice Philip's response. He doesn't argue, and he doesn't fuss at Nathanael for making such a comment. He simply says, "Come and see." How many times do we turn people off because of the way we argue or confront people who are skeptical of the Christian way? We would do much better at times to simply say, "Come and see." Nathanael does "come and see", and he becomes a disciple also. In three lists of the disciples, Philip and Nathanael are paired together. Perhaps they were friends before they met Jesus, and perhaps Philip's urging Nathanael to Christ bonded them together.
Philip is in both the stories we looked at yesterday concerning Andrew, and in the case of the little boy's lunch, Philip's lack of faith causes him to miss a blessing. "When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do." (John 6:5-6) Philip, like us, does the math mentally, and realizes the task is too difficult, instead of looking by faith and acknowledging that Jesus was able to do the impossible.
The last recorded words of Philip took place at the Lord's Supper. When Jesus refers to the Father, Philip says, "Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us." (John 14:8) Again, Philip is practical. He knows what he sees, and not much farther. We can all identify with Philip's point of view from time to time. "Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?" (John 14:9)
5 "Doubting" Thomas
Two of the disciples are usually thought of in a negative way: Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus, and Thomas, who is always referred to as "Doubting Thomas." While Judas truly deserves his reputation as a traitor, we should look closer at Thomas before we criticize him. The first three gospels only record his name, but John's gospel gives us several close-up glimpses of this disciple. John chapter 11 tells us the story of the raising of Lazarus. When Jesus clearly tells the disciples that Lazarus is dead, He determines to return to Bethany. "And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him. Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellowdisciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him." (John 11:15-16) It is odd that we remember Thomas when he doubts that Jesus has risen from the dead, but we forget that he was willing to lay down his life for the Master. This man that we often criticize for his lack of faith was ready to give his life for Jesus. Is our faith that strong?
John 14:4-6 gives us another conversation between Thomas and Jesus. The scene is the Last Supper, and Jesus says, "And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." Jesus had been speaking about heaven, and Thomas is willing to admit his ignorance of where Jesus is going, and how the disciples can go there. Jesus makes it clear that the Lord Himself is the way to heaven.
John chapter 20 gives us the best-known incident in the life of Thomas. When the resurrected Jesus had first appeared to the disciples, Thomas had been absent. This is a message to us that we should attend worship services as often as we can; the one time we miss, we may be like Thomas and miss a huge blessing. His refusal to believe that Jesus had risen is well-known, but we would probably have been just as skeptical and lacking in faith. I think it is more edifying to look at Thomas after the Lord appears to him also. "Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God." (John 20:27-28) Our faith may waver from time to time, but let us join Thomas in his faithful statement, and strongly claim that Jesus is our Lord and our God.
6 Simon the Zealot
One of the least-known disciples is Simon the Canaanite, listed with the disciples in Mark 3:19. In Luke's list of the disciples, he is referred to as "Simon called Zelotes," to distinguish him from the other disciple called Simon, known as Simon Peter. The "Zelotes" or "Zealots" were a political party that had a deep hatred for any foreign rulers who occupied Israel. They refused to pay taxes, rebelled against the Roman census, and used terrorist tactics towards government officials. It is remarkable that a man who was a part of this political group was called by Jesus to be one of his twelve disciples. But we should not be surprised. Romans 5:20 says, "But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound." There are countless Christians serving the Lord today, who once walked deep in the depths of sin. Simon refused to bow to the yoke of the Roman Empire, but he came to know Jesus and willingly submitted to the yoke of Christ. He longed for freedom for him and his Jewish brethren, but he found real freedom in the Lord Jesus Christ. As Jesus said, "If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed."
In Acts 1:13 when the disciples meet in an upper room (after Jesus has ascended to heaven), the list of disciples includes "Simon Zelotes." He was still carrying the name he was given years earlier, but instead of strong political views, he had become zealous for the Lord.
7 Nathanael (Bartholomew)
In the gospels of Matthew (10:3), Mark (3:18), and Luke (6:14), this disciple is called Bartholomew. In Acts 1:13, the writer Luke again calls him by that title. Keep in mind that "Bar" means "Son of", so Bartholomew means simply "the son of Tholomew." Only John calls him Nathanael, and it is John that gives us a picture of this disciple. In John 1:46 Nathanael shows his prejudice by asking "Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?" It is wrong for us to assume negative things about people simply because of where they are from. When Philip refuses to argue, and simply invites Nathanael to "Come and see," Nathanael does just that. And as he walks toward Jesus, "Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!" (John 1:47) Jesus reserved his strongest language for the Pharisees and hypocrites, but here is a compliment of praise for Nathanael. He is a man of sincerity. There is no false front to Nathanael. He never has to hide his real self behind the image people have of him, for they are one and the same.
"Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee." (John 1:48) A seat under the fig tree was considered the proper place to study the scriptures, so Jesus is probably referring to the fact that Nathanael was studying the scriptures when this incident took place. Being "without guile" or sincere will not suffice. Just because a person is sincere in their faith is not enough. Your faith must be based on the scriptures.
"Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel. Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these." (John 1:49-50) Nathanael was sincere, his faith was based on the scriptures, and he followed his Lord.
8 Matthew (Levi)
Mark and Luke call him Levi, but Matthew himself uses the name that we commonly associate with him, Matthew, which means "gift of God." His occupation was that of a "publican" or a tax collector. The publicans were hated because they could charge any amount that they wished, as long as it did not lead to revolt. Publicans were despised so much that they were often simply linked with sinners. Luke 15:1-2 says, "Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them." Matthew is at work when Jesus calls him. "And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him." (Matthew 9:9) Luke stresses that Matthew completely changed his life at that moment. He says, " And he left all, rose up, and followed him." (Luke 5:28)
To celebrate his call to Christ, Matthew held a large feast at his house in honor of Jesus. Jesus upset the scribes and Pharisees by eating such a meal in the house of one who was considered a great sinner. But many of the people at that feast probably would not have been welcome at the synagogue, so Jesus is able to speak to many at Matthew's house.
There are no other accounts of Matthew's individual words or actions. However, Matthew wrote the first gospel of the New Testament. His portrait of Jesus as the Jewish Messiah, the King of Israel, shows his knowledge of Jewish customs and rituals. He alone gives us the Parables of the Kingdom, and in fact, he uses the word "kingdom" over fifty times. His eyewitness account of the ministry of Jesus is one of the great "gospels" that shows us the way of salvation.
9 "James the Less"
There were two disciples named James. One was John's brother, one of the three disciples who were in Christ's inner circle. But today we look at the other James, who is described as being the son of Alphaeus. (Matt. 10:3, Mark 3:18, Luke 6:15, and Acts 1:13.) His father Alphaeus is also called Cleophas. (John 19:25) We know almost nothing about this disciple, other than about his family. Tradition says that he had been a tax collector, so perhaps his father is the same Alphaeus recorded in Mark 2:14, which would mean Levi (Matthew) and James were brothers. He also had a brother named Joses and a sister named Salome. But it is James's mother that appears several times in the gospels. On the rocky soil of Mount Calvary, several women were looking on as Jesus gave his life as an atonement for our sins. "And when the centurion, which stood over against him, saw that he so cried out, and gave up the ghost, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God. There were also women looking on afar off: among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome." (Mark 15:39-40) Three days later she is faithfully still around Jesus. "And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had brought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him." (Mark 16:1)
So "James the Less", which is translated "James the Little," seems to have been a man of small stature. But he and his family were apparently dedicated to Jesus. He may have been small in size, but he is one of the twelve men who followed and served Jesus during the three and a half years of His ministry. There is nothing "small" about "James the Less", nor anyone else who dedicates their life to following the Saviour.
Mark 3:18 gives the name of Thaddaeus for this disciple. Matthew 10:3 gives the name Lebbaeus, and adds "whose surname was Thaddaeus." Both names have the same meaning--"man of heart." Luke describes this same disciple as "Judas the brother of James." He uses this description in Luke 6:16, and then again in Acts 1:13. But only John includes some of the words of this disciple. John 14:16-23 says, "And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him." Notice that John makes sure to let us know that this Judas is not Judas Iscariot, a very understandable point to emphasize. No one would want to be confused with the disciple that betrayed Jesus. But notice also that the question asked by the other Judas is a very good question. How is it that God reveals things to His children everyday? How is it that God reveals Himself to His children everyday? Paul explains it very well: "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." (I Cor. 2:14)
Whether we refer to this disciple as Thaddaeus, Lebbaeus, or Judas (not Iscariot), we need to see that he was listening closely to the words of Jesus and meditating on the meaning of His words.
11 Judas Iscariot
As we look at the twelve disciples, we are trying to look at the positive things in their lives and ministries, hoping to apply those to our own lives. But when we come to Judas Iscariot, we find a man who betrayed his friend, who lusted after material things, and somehow walked with Jesus for three and a half years only to end up in an eternal hell. What warnings are there here for us?
Matthew 10:3, Mark 3:19, and Luke 6:16 all include Judas Iscariot as one of the twelve disciples called by Jesus. All three reference him as the disciple who betrayed Jesus. But keep in mind that for the years of Jesus's ministry, Judas Iscariot blended in with the other eleven. Nothing made him stand out as being insincere or unfaithful. Indeed, when Jesus predicted that one of the twelve would betray Him, none of the disciples said, "Is it Judas Iscariot?" They had no clue at all. In fact, they suspected themselves before they suspected Judas. "And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I?" (Matt. 26:22) Judas was the treasurer of the group, but no one seems to have suspected that he was stealing from them. "Then said one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, which should betray him. Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein." (John 12:4-6)
Why would Jesus choose Judas, knowing that he would betray Him? It is a mystery, but it is also a mystery why Jesus would choose me to be one of his followers. Jesus knew Judas's heart all along, and yet he is patient with him to the end. "Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he; hold him fast. And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him. And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took him." (Matthew 26:48-50) If you trace the words of Judas, he never called Jesus "Lord". He only referred to him as "Master", meaning "good teacher." But Jesus even here at the betrayal calls Judas "friend." I would have called him "traitor," but Jesus loves until the end.
12 James, the son of Zebedee
We come now to the inner circle of the disciples. There were twelve disciples that followed Jesus, but there were three disciples who were expecially close to the Lord. Peter, James, and John went into the garden of Gethsemane with Jesus. They walked with Him up the mountain and witnessed the transfiguration of the Lord. There was a special closeness in their relationship to Christ.
James was called in Matthew 4:21-22. "And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them. And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him." How hard it must have been for both of these men to leave not only their work, and their way of life, but also their father.
We have no recorded words of James, nor did this James write any of the books of the Bible. He is usually paired with his brother John, and Jesus gave them both a special name. "And James the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James; and he surnamed them Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder." (Mark 3:17) Whether or not this was because of their "stormy" disposition, we can only guess. We do get a hint of that kind of personality when James and John got upset with the Samaritans. "And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them. And they went to another village." (Luke 9:54-56)
The last reference to this disciple is a sad one, and occurs in Acts 12:1-2. "Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword." So the quiet disciple is faithful until death.
13 Simon Peter
Probably more has been written, taught, and preached about Simon Peter than any of the other disciples. He is often the first to speak, and many times he seems to speak before thinking. But he is the unofficial leader of the twelve disciples. After the death of Jesus Christ, look what happens in John 21:3. "Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee." The other disciples often followed his example. There are several examples of negative events in Peter's life, but he also often said and did the right thing. I have heard people criticize Peter's lack of faith when he was walking on the stormy waves with Jesus. But as one preacher put it, "If you want to walk on the water, you have to get out of the boat." Peter's boldness is a part of his strong leadership.
I think one of Peter's finest moments occurs in John 6:66-69. "From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus was divine, but He was also human, and it had to hurt to see so many followers turn and leave Him. So when He asks the twelve if they would also go away, what a blessing to hear Peter's answer: "Lord, to whom shall we go?" Peter knew that there was nowhere else they could go for salvation for their souls.
The disciple who seemed to be closest to the Lord Jesus Christ was John. He was the son of Zebedee and the brother of James. He sat next to Christ at the Lord's Supper. Notice how John refers to himself: "Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved." (John 13:23)
John was the only disciple who is listed as being at the crucifixion. It is there that Jesus intrusts His mother Mary to John's care. "Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home." (John 19:25-27)
Too many times we are like Simon Peter, bragging that we will never betray the Lord, and proclaiming how much we love Jesus. Instead, we should be more like John, simply stating how much Jesus loves us. Look at what this disciple wrote in I John 4:7-10: "Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins."
15 The 13th Disciple
In the first chapter of Acts a replacement was chosen for Judas Iscariot. "And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen, That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place. And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles." (Acts 1:23-26) Many feel that the choice of Matthias was not of God. There is no mention of Matthias after these verses. Those who think this selection was not God's will, usually state that Paul was intended to be the 13th disciple. In I Corinthians 9:1-2, Paul says, "Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord? If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord." Paul was clearly a great preacher, a great writer, and a missionary who spread the gospel throughout the world. Was he who God had in mind to replace Judas Iscariot? Was Matthias God's choice, or did the early church "run ahead'" of God? We will not know until we get to heaven and check the names on the foundations of the wall of the heavenly city. "And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb." (Rev.21:14)
16 A Family Of Disciples
Although they were not numbered among the twelve disciples, or even the seventy disciples who were sent out to witness, there was a family at Bethany that was very close to Jesus. Jesus spent a lot of time with this family, and his love for them is very evident. John 11:5 says, "Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus." I would like to use one of my favorite verses to show what Christ meant to this family.
Phil. 3:10 "That I may know Him..." Mary of Bethany took time to know Jesus. Three times you find her at the feet of Jesus. John 11:32 says, "Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died." She knew the power of prayer, and fell at His feet. In John 12:3 Mary falls at the feet of Jesus and worships Him, anointing his feet with expensive spices. In Luke 10:39 she "sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word."
"...and the power of his resurrection..." Mary's brother Lazarus certainly knew the "power of his resurrection": Jesus raised him from the dead in John 11, one of the most miraculous and public miracles in Jesus's ministry.
"...and the fellowship of his sufferings..." Martha, the sister of Mary and Lazarus, knew the "fellowship of his sufferings". Most commentators think Martha was the oldest of the three siblings. Luke 10:38 says "a certain woman named Martha received him into her house." The reference to "her house" may explain why she is the one responsible for serving the meals. She is described as "cumbered about much serving" in Luke 10:40. In the account of Mary's anointing of Jesus's feet, John 12:2 says, "There they made him a supper; and Martha served."
What an example for all of us! Do we serve Him? Do we worship Him? Has He resurrected us?
17 The Will Of God For Your Life
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." Romans 12:1-2
We have been looking at the Disciples of Jesus, who walked and talked with Him those few short years that He was here on earth. What about you and me? Paul told the Thessalonian believers, "That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory." (I Thessalonians 2:12) We can also be disciples of Jesus, in the sense that we were called unto salvation, and we have instructions in God's Word on being followers of Christ. If you are looking for God's will in your life, look to Romans 12:1-2. "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." As you get up each morning, give yourself to God, for His service. We can do this by using the gifts He has given to us. "Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness." (Romans 12:6-8) We all have different gifts. Find the gift that God has given you, and use it for His glory. My husband has a wonderful gift of teaching. I want to thank him for writing these devotions on the disciples for the past two weeks. He uses his gift of teaching for God's glory. You may have the gift of giving or the gift of showing mercy. This is only a short list of God's gifts, but find your gift, and use it for God's glory as you "present your body a living sacrifice". Then you will find the "good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."
18 Let Your Light Shine
"Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." Matthew 5:14-16
We talked yesterday about finding your gifts and using them for the glory of God. Many will say, "I don't have the gift of preaching, or teaching, or singing." Pray and ask God to show you the gifts He has given you, and use them for His glory. I visited with my nephew and he was showing me his paintings. God has given him a gift of artistic ability. He told me that he likes to use the dark colors and have the light flow in from one direction against the dark background. He said that he likes to paint all of his pictures like that. I told him that he could use that gift as a witness. It is sometimes hard to take a Bible and witness to others, but I think that if we pray and seek God's will He can show us how to let our light shine. As people admire my nephew's work, he could tell them that the world is dark with sin, but God is the light that shines through the darkness. We can take this same idea and see in our verses above that we are to reflect God's light in this dark sinful world. We are to let our light shine. Search your inner being and find the talents and gifts that may be hidden. Ask God to show you how you can use your gifts for His honor. And last of all, let your light shine in this dark and dying world.
19 Who Are You Following?
"Then said they to him again, What did he to thee? how opened he thine eyes? He answered them, I have told you already, and ye did not hear: wherefore would ye hear it again? will ye also be his disciples? Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses' disciples." John 9:26-28
I saw some colorful flutes in a toy store and I thought of the story of The Pied Piper of Hamelin, that I heard as a child. The town of Hamelin had a plague of rats and the Pied Piper offered to rid the town of rats for a certain amount of money. The townspeople agreed and the rats followed the music of the Pied Piper to the Weser River where they drowned. The people refused to pay the Piper, and history tells us that on June 26, 1284 the Piper returned in colorful clothing, and while the parents were in church, 130 children followed him with his music out of town, and were never seen again. This is not a Bible story but it does make me ask the question, "Who are my children following?" Are our children going to church to worship with us, or are they tuned in to the music of the world? Maybe we are in church together, but are we following Jesus, or are we following religion? When Jesus gave the blind man his sight the Pharisees questioned him of Jesus. They were the religious leaders of that day and they said, "we are Moses' disciples". Moses was a great leader used of God in a mighty way, but it was not enough to follow Moses. We must follow the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the only way. Who are your children following? Who are you following?
"As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you." John 15:9-14
We have been talking about disciples and followers of Jesus. These verses give two aspects of our relationship with Christ. The first is love. God the Father loved Jesus, and we are commanded to continue in His love and to love one another. Jesus loved us so much that He gave His life to pay our sin debt. "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." Jesus called us "friends". I could "follow" a famous person and tell everyone how much I admired that person, but that would not make us friends. Jesus is the Son of God, and yet He called us "friends". In turn, we can sing the great old song, "What A Friend We Have In Jesus". The other part of these verses is obedience. Jesus also said, "Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you." Love and obedience go hand in hand. As followers of Jesus we should read His Word and let the Holy Spirit be our guide as we strive to follow His commandments and obey His Word. Jesus is the greatest Friend you will ever know.
21 What Is Keeping You From Following Jesus?
"And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother. And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions." Mark 10:17-22
Yesterday a tractor trailor went across the median and hit a car head on, killing both drivers. Traffic was almost at a stand-still for hours as the emergency workers tried to put out the growing fire and clean up the wreckage. The paper said that the truck driver has not been identified. The driver of the car was only 28 years old. This young woman probably thought she had many years to live. I hope that she was a Christian because she had no time to think about eternity when the truck made a sudden impact with her car. As we think about making the decision to follow Jesus, we need to realize that if we don't make a decision to follow Christ, then we are making the decision everyday not to follow Him. It is very dangerous to say, "Well, I sort-of want to follow Jesus, but not today, maybe when I get older and I have lived a little." The only time we have is now. We may live a long and happy life, or we may not live past tomorrow. Don't wait until it is too late to make the decision to follow the Lord. Another thing that we see in our verses above makes us ask, "What is keeping you from following Jesus?" Jesus does not tell everyone to sell all they have to follow Him. He knew that this man put his trust in his riches. Are you letting a "pet sin" keep you from being saved? Some people don't trust in the Lord because they enjoy their sinful lifestyle too much to want to give it up. Don't choose "the pleasures of sin for a season". Hebrews 11:24-27 tells us, "By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible." So I close with these two thoughts today. By not choosing to follow Jesus, you are choosing not to follow Him. And don't let the temporary, little things of this world keep you from choosing the eternal rewards of Heaven.
22 He Must Increase, But I Must Decrease
"He must increase, but I must decrease." John 3:30
That verse is so short, let's read it again. "He must increase, but I must decrease." If we want to follow the Lord and be His disciples, then "He must increase" and we "must decrease". Last month our church choir was invited to sing in the service at a local Camp Meeting. As I was getting ready, my daughter was playing over her music. When it was time to go she picked up her guitar, music books, Bible and pocketbook and slid her feet into her shoes as we went out the door. Before the service began her best friends asked her about her shoes and she looked down to see that she had on two different kinds of shoes. We were too far from home to return for matching shoes. I remembered that I had put a pair of walking shoes in the car a week or so earlier, so I put them on and let her have my sandals. She was upset that she had done something that she considered to be so dumb. After we got back home I told her that it showed me that she was more concerned with serving the Lord than how she looked. I quoted this verse to her, "He must increase, but I must decrease." We all should put more emphasis on serving God and less emphasis on how we look.