Monthly Archives: September 2018

3. Confessed Jesus To Be the Christ

Thursday evening the Life group which meets in my wife’s and my home studied another key event in Peter’s life, his confessing Jesus to be the Christ and his rebuking of Jesus. The event is described in Matthew 16:13-28, Mark 8:27-9:1, and Luke 9:18-27. We studied Matthew’s account of it because it is the fullest and because Serendipity Bible for Groups contains a questionnaire for beginning groups for it. Here it is from the English Standard Version (ESV):

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.

21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. 28 Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

In our previous meeting I’d distributed copies of the questionnaire and of the DIG questions on Matthew 16:13-28 given in The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups (Zondervan Publishing House, 1988, pages 1266-67), my having permission from Serendipity House to reproduce material from Serendipity Bible for Groups for small group use. We shared our answers to the Looking into the Scripture part of the questionnaire, discussed the DIG questions, and shared our answers to the My Own Story of the questionnaire.

In answering Looking into the Scripture, we concluded:
1. Our answers varied on what the average person where we work would say if asked, “Who is Jesus?”
2. When Peter said, “You are the Christ,” he meant that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, the promised and expected deliverer of the Jews, who will bring an era of peace and justice.
3. Peter got upset when Jesus explained the cross because he didn’t want Jesus to suffer.
4. When Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me,” he was warning the disciples that their following him would cost them everything.
5. When Jesus said, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” he meant either “Why pay the ultimate price for temporary happiness?” or “Someday you’ll have to answer for your choices.”
6. Our answers varied on how we thought Peter would feel after the event.
The questions in My Own Story ask for personal information and so, although we shared our answers in the group, I won’t share them here.

These are the DIG Questions, each accompanied by what I can remember from our discussion of it, a personal comment on it, and/or a relevant quotation from a commentary on Matthew:
1. Why did people think that Jesus was John the Baptist, Elijah, or Jeremiah?
John the Baptist, Elijah, and Jeremiah were all prophets. King Herod thought that Jesus was John the Baptist risen from the dead (Mark 6:16). In Malachi 4:5-6 God promised to send Elijah to prepare people for the Day of the Lord.
2. What was significant about Peter’s confession?
Peter confessed Jesus to be the Messiah expected by the Jews (see Looking into the Scripture, 2, above) and to be the Son of God or divine (only Matthew’s account includes “the Son of the living God”).
3. How do you interpret the insight (v. 17), power (v. 18), and authority (v. 19) given to Peter? What are the “keys” of the kingdom? What do they “bind” and “loose”? [Compare Jesus’ words to Peter in verse 19 to his words to all the disciples in 18:18-20.]
We spent considerable time discussing this question, my referring to https://opentheism.wordpress.com/2018/08/10/peter-the-first-pope/ and our expanding on it.
4. Why does Jesus change the direction of his teaching now?
“The beginning of a new emphasis in Jesus’ ministry. Instead of teaching the crowds in parables, he concentrated on preparing the disciples for his coming suffering and death” (NIV Study Bible, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1985).
5. What kind of Messiah was Peter expecting? Why was Jesus’ response to Peter so strong (see 4:1-11)?
“Like other Jews at the time, [Peter] probably understood the Messiah’s work in primarily earthly and political terms; defeat and death … was not on his agenda. In this he expressed the things of man, and as long as Jesus’ disciples shared this purely human perspective, Jesus’ mission (the things of God) could never make sense to them. … Hence [Jesus’] remarkably fierce reaction in v 23.” R. T. France in The New Bible Commentary, Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994 edition). Peter’s rebuke to Jesus was similar to Satan’s temptations to Jesus in the wilderness.
6. What activities and attitudes are at the heart of Christian discipleship? How does a Christian forfeit his life? What things tempt people to lose their life or exchange their soul?
“The person who tries to hang on to his own will and reject what God desires for him ultimately loses eternally all that he is attempting to protect in this life. … On the other hand, the person who lets loose of her own self-centered desires and accepts God’s will for her discovers true life” (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2004).
7. How might verse 28 relate to what happens next?
Verse 28 may be a prediction of the transfiguration, three of the disciples seeing in it what Jesus will be like when he comes again. However, other interpretations of the verse are possible, such as its referring to Jesus’ reign in the post-resurrection church.

This event illustrates Peter’s ups and downs. No sooner has he made a significant confession of faith and been praised by Jesus for it than he rebukes Jesus and in return is rebuked by Jesus. But he will finally get it right, as Larry R. Helyer observes in his The Life and Witness of Peter: “His letters reflect his mature views. In his first letter, he now clearly grasps the necessity of Jesus’ sufferings before his glory: ‘the Spirit of Christ within them [the prophets] indicate when it testified in advance to the sufferings destined for Christ and the subsequent glory’ (1 Pet 1:11). Not even a whiff of Jewish, nationalistic messianism may be detected in Peter’s epistles” (Downer’s Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2012, page 46).

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2. Walked on Water

22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. 25 And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:22-33, ESV)

Yesterday evening the Life group which meets in my wife’s and my home studied the above key event in Peter’s life. Jesus’ walking on the water is described in Matthew 14:22-33, Mark 6:45-52, and John 6:16-21, but only Matthew’s account (given above) tells about Peter’s walking on it and so we studied it. I opened our study of the event by reading the account of it given by Anne DeVries in his Story Bible for Older Children (New Testament) (St. Catherines, Ontario: Paideia Press, 1979, pages 104-06).

Next we did the questionnaire on Matthew 14:22-33 given in The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups (Zondervan Publishing House, 1988, page 1263), my having permission from Serendipity House to reproduce material from Serendipity Bible for Groups for small group use. The questionnaire was divided into two parts, Looking into the Scripture and My Own Story. In answering Looking into the Scripture, we concluded:
1. If we had been in the boat with the disciples when we saw someone walking on the water, we would have said “I’m seeing things” and done nothing.
2. When Jesus said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid,” he was telling the disciples, “Relax…believe in me.”
3. When Peter replied, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water,” he was asking to get to Jesus.
4. The tone in Jesus’ voice when he said “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” was expressing disappointment (When are you ever going to learn?) or reassurance (You almost made it. And with a little more faith, you will).
5. The reason that Jesus invited Peter to “come” even though he knew Peter was going to sink was to test his faith.
6. If we could put in a good word for Peter, we would say that at least he was willing to step out.
The questions in My Own Story ask for personal information and so, although we shared our answers in the group, I won’t share them here.

After we shared our answers to the questionnaire, we discussed what Peter’s action showed about his personality and I read parts of “Eliciting discipleship and leadership through faith and worship” from Michael J. Wilkins’s The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2004, pages 525-29). We observed that Peter was bold and impulsive but also got discouraged. Similarly, Wilkins identified as one of Peter’s character qualities, “swings from extreme highs of faith in Jesus to extreme lows of faith and even denial of Jesus.”

R. C. Foster concludes his comments on the event in Studies in the Life of Christ (Joplin, Missouri: College Press Publishing Company, 1995 reprint, pages 653-54) thus:

Looking back across the years and reflecting on this dreadful watch in the night and the glorious reunion with the Lord, the apostles must have treasured this as one of their most precious recollections. How dreadfully death and life had been intertwined on that night! What triumphant confirmation of their faith! What assurance in hours of trial! Looking back across the centuries at this scene, humble Christians have been reminded of their own redemption amid the storm-swept experiences of life.

I was sinking deep in sin,
Far from the peaceful shore,
Very deeply stained within,
Sinking to rise no more;
But the Master of the sea
Heard my despairing cry,
From the water lifted me,
Now safe am I.

Love lifted me.

1B. Appointed To Be an Apostle

He was called to be a disciple (Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20; Luke 5:1-11; John 1:35-42) and appointed to be an apostle (Matthew 10:1-4; Mark 3:13-19; Luke 6:12-16).

Yesterday evening the Life group which meets in my wife’s and my home completed our study of the above key event in Peter’s life. The previous week we had studied John 1:35-42 and Mark 1:16-20. This week we studied Luke 5:1-11 and Mark 3:13-19. The other passages given in the statement are parallel to passages which we studied.

For Luke 5:1-11, we did the questionnaire on the passage given in The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups (Zondervan Publishing House, 1988, page 1341). For Mark 3:13 we discussed a few of the questions asked in Serendipity Bible for Groups on Matthew 10:1-4, Mark 3:13-19, and Luke 6:12-16. I have permission from Serendipity House to reproduce material from Serendipity Bible for Groups for small group use.

Luke 5:1-11

1 On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, 2 and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 4 And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” 6 And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 7 They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” 9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”1 11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him. (ESV)

Before we did the questionnaire, I explained that its first question’s referring to Luke 5:1-11 as the first meeting of Jesus and Peter is incorrect because both John 1:35-42 and Mark 1:16-20 (Matthew 4:18-22) occurred before it. I reminded the group that the previous week I had told them that we know that the calling described in Luke 5:1-11 occurred after the calling described in Mark 1:16-20 because Mark records Jesus’ healing of Peter’s mother-in-law after recording the calling (Mark 1:29-31) but Luke records it before recording the calling (Luke 4:38-39).

The questionnaire was divided into two parts, Looking into the Scripture and My Own Story. We didn’t agree in our answers for any of the questions in Looking into the Scripture. However the majority of us expressed these opinions:
1. What stood out about this meeting of Jesus and Peter was how Jesus showed his interest in Peter’s work.
2. If we had been Peter, we would have done what he did when Jesus asked him to “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”
3. When they “enclosed [such] a large number of fish [that] their nets were breaking,” Peter realized who Jesus was.
4. When Peter said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord,” he meant, “I feel uncomfortable being around you because of my sinful life.”
5. “They left everything and followed him” because they were intrigued by the thought of becoming “fishers of men.”
The questions in My Own Story ask for personal information and so, although we shared our answers in the group, I won’t share them here.

Mark 3:13-19

13 And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. 14 And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach 15 and have authority to cast out demons. 16 He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); 17 James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); 18 Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Cananaean [“kananaios” means “zealot” and many versions of the Bible, including the 2016 version of ESV, have “Simon the Zealot” instead of “Simon the Cananaean”], 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. (ESV, 2007)

I observed that where Matthew, Mark, and/or Luke have parallel accounts of an event I would give the account from Mark, who according to tradition based his Gospel on the preaching of Peter, but would note where Matthew and/or Luke differs from Mark. Then I read Mark 3:13-19 and noted the main differences between it and the accounts in Matthew 10:1-4 and Luke 6:12-16. They included:
– Matthew doesn’t say that they went up on a mountain.
– Luke observes that Jesus prayed all night on the mountain before calling the twelve to him.
– The KJV and NKJV of Mark 3:13-19 has “and to have power to heal sicknesses” between “to preach” and “and to cast out devils/demons.” Matthew has just casting out unclean spirits and healing diseases and afflictions as things that Jesus appointed the twelve to do, and Luke doesn’t say what he appointed them to do.
– Matthew and Luke list Andrew immediately after Peter, Matthew lists Matthew after instead of before Thomas, Luke has “James the son of Alphaeus” instead of “Thaddeus,” and Luke has “Simon the Zealot” instead of “Simon the Cananean.”

We discussed why Jesus would have appointed the twelve “to be with him.” The group suggested that he did so to equip them for ministry and I added that he might also have done so to have companions in his ministry. Matthew Henry has a long comment on the phrase, saying: “He ordained them (probably by the imposition of hands, which was a ceremony used among the Jews), that they should be with him constantly, to be witnesses of his doctrine, manner of life, and patience, that they might fully know it, and be able to give an account of it; and especially that they might attest the truth of his miracles; they must be with him to receive instructions from him, that they might be qualified to give instructions to others. It would require time to fit them for that which he designed them for; for they must be sent forth to preach; not to preach till they were sent, and not to be sent till by a long and intimate acquaintance with Christ they were fitted. Note, Christ’s ministers must be much with him.”

We discussed these questions which I asked from those asked in Serendipity Bible for Groups on the passage:
– What is their [the Twelve’s] purpose?
– Why such ordinary guys?
– What does it mean for you to be “with him”?
– [What does it mean] to be “sent out” by him?

1A. Called To Be a Disciple

He was called to be a disciple (Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20; Luke 5:1-11; John 1:35-42) and appointed to be an apostle (Matthew 10:1-4; Mark 3:13-19; Luke 6:12-16).

Yesterday evening the Life group which meets in my wife’s and my home began a study of the life and writings of the apostle Peter. In our last meeting before breaking for the summer, I’d distributed a sheet about our planned study called “Peter” (see https://opentheism.wordpress.com/category/simon-peter/). Then in August I posted here two articles on topics relevant to the life and writings of Peter that our group won’t likely study, one on the claim of the Roman Catholic Church that Peter was its first pope (https://opentheism.wordpress.com/2018/08/10/peter-the-first-pope/) and the other on the authorship of 1 Peter and 2 Peter (https://opentheism.wordpress.com/2018/08/24/authorship-of-1-2-peter/).

I opened yesterday evening’s meeting by observing that although I’d listed the above italicised statement as one key event in Peter’s life, a comparison of the passages given in it suggests that they refer to four different events in his life. Here is how those events appear in Kurt Aland’s Synopsis of the Four Gospels (United Bible Societies, 1972):
21. The Call of the First Disciples (John 1:35-51)
34. The Call of the Disciples (Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20)
41. The Miraculous Draught of Fishes (Luke 5:1-11)
49. The Choosing of the Twelve (Matthew 10:1-4; Mark 3:13-19; Luke 6:12-16)
I then told the group that we’d study the first two events in yesterday’s meeting and the other two events in next week’s meeting.

We went on to do the questionnaire on John 1:35-42 given in The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups (Zondervan Publishing House, 1988; I have permission from Serendipity House to reproduce material from Serendipity Bible for Groups for small group use), “Calling the First Disciples: Andrew” (page 1391), and to discuss some questions on Mark 1:16-20 (see below). A summary of our discussion of the two events follows.

John 1:35-42

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

The Serendipity questionnaire contains two parts, Looking into the Scripture and My Own Story. In answering Looking into the Scripture we concluded:
1. When John the Baptist described Jesus as “the Lamb of God,” he was saying that Jesus was the promised sacrifice for the sin of the world. We attributed John’s knowing this about Jesus to the Holy Spirit.
2. The disciples followed Jesus for the day because he was irresistible. I noted that John’s saying to the disciples “Behold, the Lamb of God!” as Jesus walking by encouraged them to follow, not just to look at, Jesus.
3. Jesus’ telling the disciples “Come and you will see” invited them to examine the evidence that he was the Lamb of God for themselves. This was the choice of the majority of the group; also popular was that Jesus was inviting the disciples to give him a chance to prove himself.
4. When Andrew, Peter’s brother, told Peter, “We have found the Messiah,” he was saying that Jesus was the future king of Israel.
5. Jesus changed Peter’s name from Simon (meaning “sinking sand” to Peter (meaning “the rock”) because he saw ahead to what Simon would be some day. This was the choice of the majority of the group; also popular was that Jesus changed Peter’s name because he saw a strength in Simon that justified changing his name.
The questions in My Own Story ask for personal information and so, although we shared our answers in the group, I won’t share them here.

Mark 1:16-20

16 Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him. (ESV)

We read the account of the event in both Matthew 4:18-22 and Mark 1:16-20, and I asked the following questions on it:
– How did Jesus call Peter and the other three fishermen?
– How did they respond?
– What does their response show about them?
– When Jesus called Peter and the others, they immediately left their nets and followed him. What might he be calling you to leave so that you can follow him more faithfully?

In our discussion of the disciples’ response to Jesus’ call, I explained that the narratives of Jesus’ life which I consulted took this event as occurring up to a year after the event described in John 1:35-42 with the events described in John 2:1-4:43 occurring between them. John 2:1-4:43 refers to Jesus’ disciples being with him, indicating that Peter and the other three fishermen continued to follow Jesus. However Mark 1:16-20 indicates that they also continued fishing. The call in Mark 1:16-20 would thus be a call to them to abandon their fishing and to devote themselves to following Jesus.

I also observed that some narratives of Jesus’ life which I consulted combine the account of Peter’s being called to be a disciple in Matthew 4:18-22/Mark 1:16-20 with the account of his being called in Luke 5:1-11 but that Matthew and Mark’s giving their accounts of the call (Matthew 4:18-22 and Mark 1:16-20) before their accounts of the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law (Matthew 8:14-15 and Mark 1:29-31) and Luke’s giving his account of the call (5:1-11) after his account of the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law (4:38-39) indicates that the events of Matthew 4:18-22/Mark 1:16-20 and Luke 5:1-11 were different events. As noted above, we’ll study Luke 5:1-11 next week with the accounts of the choosing of the twelve (including Peter).

Being a small group, our group open to additional members. This year we are studying the life and writings of Peter. The study is preceded by singing and a Voice of the Martyrs story and followed by prayer for prayer requests and lunch.