Thursday, June 19, 2014

Sometimes when I’m reading the scriptures, verses seem to be “out of place”.  In Luke 9:1-6 Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them “power and authority over all demons and power to heal diseases.  Then He sent them to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick.”  They obeyed by “proclaiming the good news and healing everywhere”.  Four verses later, they reported back to Jesus - later that day, Jesus fed the 5,000 with the five loaves and two fishes. 

But sandwiched in between those verses is the following:

v.7-9   Herod, the tetrarch heard about everything that was going on.  He was perplexed, because some had said that John had been raised from the dead…”I beheaded John,” Herod said, “but who is this I hear such things about?”  And he wanted to see Him (Jesus).

So, why did Luke choose to make mention of Herod right here in between this account?  I don’t think it was a mistake.  After all, Luke was writing under the inspiration of the Almighty.  Perhaps we are to consider our own “summons” by Christ.  He has called us, just as He called His twelve disciples to “proclaim the Kingdom of God” wherever we go.  We must remember that everywhere we go, there may be people just like Herod, who are “perplexed” about what is going on in the world – people who really want to “see” Jesus.

The word “perplexed” means “filled with uncertainty…bewildered, confused, disconcerted, baffled, confounded – full of difficulty”.  How could the good news of the gospel and healings cause someone to be perplexed?  In Herod’s case, he thought he had destroyed that “repentance message” by destroying John the Baptist.  After all, his message was “repent, and be baptized”.  Maybe Herod thought his guilty conscience over his own sin would be erased when he got rid of the “cause”.  But the call to repentance continued to resonate even as Jesus’ disciples proclaimed the Kingdom and healed the sick.

Even on the Day of Pentecost, Acts 2:12 tell us that all of the people from every nation who heard the disciples speaking in tongues by the Spirit of God in their own language, “were astounded and perplexed”.  That day, Peter stood before them and preached a message of the Kingdom with power and authority.  The people’s hearts were pierced and asked “what must we do?”   Peter told them in Acts 2:38 “Repent and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus the Messiah for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”. That day, 3,000 people were saved and “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to fellowship, and to the breaking of bread, and to prayers”. 

Repentance – a must if we want to follow Christ. 

Even Herod got his chance.  In Luke 22, Pilate passed Jesus off to Herod just before His crucifixion.  v. 8 tells us that “Herod was very glad to see Jesus; for a long time he had wanted to see Him, because he had heard about Him and was hoping to see some miracle performed by Him.”  Herod kept asking Jesus questions, but He did not answer.  Neither did He perform a miracle.  Jesus’ silence revealed Herod’s hardened heart.   Herod only wanted to see the miracles – he did not want to repent of his sins.  “Then Herod, with his soldiers, treated Him with contempt, mocked Him…”

Two examples of people who were perplexed, confused, baffled, confounded…3,000 repented.  One did not. 

We must call the world to the Cross of Christ through faith and repentance.   When we are obedient to Christ’s commission to preach the Kingdom, we may encounter some “Herods” along the way.  The Holy Spirit may keep us “silent” so that He might do a greater work.  He may also give us boldness to preach to crowds as Peter did.

So, I guess I am no longer “perplexed” with a scripture that seems out of place – It’s right where it belongs!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Fishers of Men

I love when I read the Bible and find out something that I never knew before.  I have been reading the scriptures now for 38 years – and it amazes me the things that I continue to learn.  I am a slow learner at times, but I do know that the Word of God is living - wisdom and understanding flow freely from the Bible’s pages.  Just this week I experienced that in Luke chapter 5…
The crowds, longing to hear God’s word, are pressing in on Jesus.  He is standing by Lake Gennesaret.  Lake Gennesaret is actually the Sea of Galilee.  Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John (fisherman at trade) are there on the shore cleaning their fishing nets with their boats at the edge of the lake.  They had been fishing all night long without catching a single fish.  Jesus asked Peter to let him put out his boat a little from the shore so that He could be heard by the crowd.  Jesus sat in the boat and taught the people that day. 
This was the same account that was told in Mark chapter 1.   I didn’t know that.  Mark tells a more condensed version:  Jesus passes by the men and says “follow Me and I will make you fish for people” and immediately they leave their nets and followed Him.  I have often read Mark’s account and wondered how they just upped and left everything just like that??  I never questioned it much, though – just believed it. 
But it makes sense now. Luke’s account gives us more details… In the preceding chapter, Luke tells that the people who heard Jesus speak “were amazed at the gracious words that came from His mouth” (Luke 4:22) and “they were astonished at His teaching because His message had authority” (Luke 4:32). 
So as this scene opens Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John are there.  I’m sure this was not coincidental.  It was a divine appointment.  Jesus knew they’d be there.   Maybe they didn’t even pay much attention at first – they were exhausted from working hard all night long. But Jesus had a captive audience.  They couldn’t help but hear His gracious words and His message of authority.   They were experiencing the very presence of God – in His Son Jesus Christ and His words.
Luke 5:4 says “When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and let down your nets for a catch.”  Simon Peter’s reply is “we’ve worked hard all night long and caught nothing!  But at your word, I’ll let down the nets.”   They realized after hearing Jesus that He spoke with a greater authority than anyone they’d ever met.  It was right to listen to this One who spoke the oracles of God.  So they did what He said.  And their nets were so full of fish that they began breaking.  James and John in the other boat had to come and help them.  Both boats were so full of fish they began sinking!  This blessing of obedience to God’s word brought Simon Peter to his knees in repentance…”Go away from me, because I’m a sinful man, Lord!”   But Jesus assured them, “Don’t be afraid, From now on you will be catching people!”
“Then they brought the boats to land, left everything, and followed Him.”
Jesus didn’t just walk by and say “follow Me.”  He spoke words of life to them.  He proved His authority over even the fish of the sea.  He revealed to these men that obedience to God’s word brought abundance and blessing.  The goodness of God led Simon to repentance. 
So what is the message to us?  God’s Word prepares us for the Great Commission that is given to us to go into all the world and make disciples, baptizing them and teaching them to obey what He commanded us. 
11.      We must first hear, listen to, and obey God’s Word.  This is fundamental and foundational to our walk with Christ.  We will never have a desire to follow Him if we do not hear His word.  Daily time in His word and in His presence is imperative.
22.      Christ may tell us to go back out into “deep water” – to places we have not had success in the past and let down our nets again.  Perhaps there are people that you have witnessed to in the past without seeming to succeed – The Lord may be encouraging you to do it again.  You will never know until you take the step of obedience.  Or maybe you are weary from “working hard all night” without any fruit from your labors.  Christ encourages us to press on.
33.      Just as Simon, Andrew, James and John “left everything, and followed Him”, so must we.  From what I read here, it’s not hard when you have met Jesus and experienced His living Word and the blessings in obeying it.  By doing this, we will truly become fishers of men.
44.      Our hearts become humbled and repentant when we observe the truths of God’s Word.  When we experience the blessings in obedience, it begins a process that changes us – we are humbled before the great and Awesome God who shows us that everything is under His authority.  We see His greatness and we bow down.

Lord, open our ears to hear Your voice, our eyes to see You, and our hearts to obey.  May our obedience to your Word bring many people into Your Kingdom as we become humble and repentant fishers of men.