Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Mark 1:16-20

I'm laying this one out a little differently this time; trying to see if this helps. (The (AB) is the Apostolic Bible Polyglot, which is a Greek-English translation of the Old and New Testaments.)

Περιπατῶν δὲ παρὰ τὴν θάλασσαν τῆς Γαλιλαίας εἶδε Σίμωνα καὶ ᾿Ανδρέαν τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ βάλλοντας ἀμφίβληστρον ἐν τῇ θαλάσσῃ· ἦσαν γὰρ ἁλιεῖς· (GNT)
And walking by the sea of the of Galilee, he beheld Simon and Andrew his brother casting a casting-net in the sea; for they were fishermen. (AB)

As He was going along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. (ESV)
καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς ὁ ᾿Ιησοῦς· δεῦτε ὀπίσω μου καὶ ποιήσω ὑμᾶς γενέσθαι ἁλιεῖς ἀνθρώπων (GNT)
And [2said 3to them 1Jesus], Come after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men. (AB)

And Jesus said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men." (ESV)

καὶ εὐθέως ἀφέντες τὰ δίκτυα αὐτῶν ἠκολούθησαν αὐτῷ (GNT)
And immediately leaving their nets, they followed him. (AB)

Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. (ESV)

καὶ προβὰς ἐκεῖθεν ὀλίγον εἶδεν ᾿Ιάκωβον τὸν τοῦ Ζεβεδαίου καὶ ᾿Ιωάννην τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ καὶ αὐτοὺς ἐν τῷ πλοίω καταρτίζοντας τὰ δίκτυα (GNT)
And having advanced from there a little, he saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, and them in the boat readying the nets. (AB)

Going on a little farther, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who were also in the boat mending the nets. (ESV)

καὶ εὐθέως ἐκάλεσεν αὐτούς καὶ ἀφέντες τὸν πατέρα αὐτῶν Ζεβεδαῖον ἐν τῷ πλοίω μετὰ τῇn μισθωτῶν ἀπῆλθον ὀπίσω αὐτοῦ (GNT)
And immediately he called them. And having left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hirelings, they went forth after him. (AB)

Immediately He called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went away to follow Him. (ESV)


Jesus calls the first of his disciples (vv.16-20):
As He was going along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen.

And Jesus said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men."

Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.

Going on a little farther, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who were also in the boat mending the nets.

Immediately He called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went away to follow Him. (Mark 1:16-20 - NASB)
The Gospel of Luke records this a bit differently, giving us some more detail:
He saw two boats lying at the edge of the lake; but the fishermen had gotten out of them and were washing their nets.

And He got into one of the boats, which was Simon's, and asked him to put out a little way from the land. And He sat down and began teaching the people from the boat.

When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, "Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch."

Simon answered and said, "Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets."

When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break; so they signaled to their partners in the other boat for them to come and help them. And they came and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink.

But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus' feet, saying, "Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!"

For amazement had seized him and all his companions because of the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, "Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men."

When they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him. (Luke 5:2-11)
My imagination is really stoked by the reading Luke's account of these happenings. I can really "see" it happening, and I find that it makes me read it again and again. I try to picture it from the point of view of an observer there that day:
Jesus, is walking along the shore of lake Gennesaret teaching and talking to a crowd of people. (He's already been going around that area in Galilee teaching, so people were starting to follow Him in numbers.) It's getting to be a large enough crowd that it's difficult for Him to speak where they all can hear Him. So, here are a couple empty boats, not necessarily His boats mind you, but still He just gets into one of them and asks Simon Peter to "put out" just a little bit off shore so that he can speak to and teach the people.
After Jesus is done teaching, and perhaps we assume that Peter has been listening (maybe he's doing some things on the boat while he listens, it doesn't say here, I just imagine it that way, maybe), He then tells him to just go out a bit into the deeper water and put the nets in to bring in a catch.

Now, if I'm Peter at this point, I'm becoming more than curious about this man; He just walks onto my boat and commands me to take Him out, then He proceeds to teach people from the boat (
as if I don't have things that need to get done - I mean, I've been working all night and I'm tired...), when He's finished He then tells me how to do my job. Do we get any hint of this as Peter tells Him, "Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets." He doesn't understand it, but he does as He says.

Two questions...

First, why is Peter calling Jesus, "Master"? The Greek word here is επιστάτα (epistata) and would seem to imply that Peter saw him as a superior, but maybe not specifically as a Rabbi, just "one placed over others". It has not yet been revealed to Peter who Jesus is, in the sense that He is the Christ (Matthew 16:17), so we conclude that Peter is only calling him "Master" to indicate respect and honor as one deserving such. Perhaps he assumes as much since this Man has a following of people that seem to hold Him in esteem, worthy to listen to and gain instruction. Another thought: perhaps this man, Jesus, isn't a stranger to Peter. Maybe Peter is already a casual follower of sorts. This may explain why it doesn't seem strange that Jesus would just get in Peter's boat and that Peter just obeys Him without question.

Second, Peter is a fisherman by trade, yet he obliges Jesus' request to fish during the day (instead of at night, as was the practice) and to go away from the shore (whereas fisherman usually stayed close to the shore). Why? Is he "humoring" Jesus like a local that decides to just go along with the crazy requests of the out-of-town guest? Again, maybe this hints at some sort of already established relationship. Some commentators suggest that there are some allegorical truths to be learned in this passage. One could be seen in Peter's willingness to obey what seemed to him to be a ridiculous request, but one that was performed with some manner of faith, and bore a reward in the large catch. Perhaps.

Getting back to Mark's account, the details of the story are omitted and we simply have,
As He was going along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men." Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.
Once again, Mark moves us right along as immediately they left what they were doing and followed Him. Jesus calls, they leave behind the life they've been living, and follow Him.

I have to ask at this point, does this describe me at all? When I heard Jesus' call to follow Him, did I leave behind the life I had come to know, and follow Him? Quickly I realize that this "follow me" is not a request or an invitation, but a command. This is an imperative call to action, not a request wherein Jesus stands by holding His hand out, wondering if the brothers will respond. How is this similar (or not) to the way we present the Gospel to those to whom we witness today? If this passage had been written by a modern evangelist, it might sound more like this:

As He was going along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen.

And they said to Him, "Will you come into my heart and help me to have a better life?"

Immediately, He came into the their hearts because they had asked Him to, and then they went back to their lives, assured that they'd go to heaven one day because they'd asked Jesus into their hearts.
Obviously that doesn't sound anything like what we know to be the way Jesus calls His disciples. And the people of 1st century Israel would have noticed this as well, since it was not customary for the disciples to be called by the teacher, but it really was the other way around. Teachers, or rabbi's, would have been approached by prospective students asking to become followers.

Another thing that would have raised an eye brow or two is that Jesus wasn't calling the usual followers. These men were not seeking Him, as we've already seen, but even more, they weren't seeking anything aside from their providing for their own welfare by their chosen trade. Even today, we see the Lord calling people out of their self-centered lives, and placing them on a path leading to His glory, not theirs; calling them to serve others, not themselves; calling them to seek the lost from amidst a crowd of "fish" that are not seeking to be "caught".

Then, in vv. 19 & 20, James and John are called in very much the same way that Simon Peter and Andrew were. But we see that James and John were called away from what appears to be a successful family fishing business, at least one doing well enough to have hired hands. They left their father and their family to follow Jesus.

At first, I'm bewildered as I try to understand this, this leaving everything familiar to strike out on a new life. But I guess it's not all too unfamiliar to our culture to see the young do this. Often young adults will leave the home to pursue their "dreams" or a career or education. Yet, as popular culture has become more and more aware of "wacky cults", we'd be concerned if a family member or close friend picked up and moved away to follow some guy and his new religion.

So, I wonder how their father Zebedee (and family) would have perceived this apparent abandonment. Is there anything in scripture that could shed some light on this? Initially, I find that James in the same Apostle that was martyred by Herod in Acts 12; and John is the Apostle that wrote five books of the New Testament: the gospel of John, Revelation, and 3 epistles. But what about preceding this encounter at the sea shore? Or anything we can know about the family? Their mother is mentioned in Matthew 27:56 as one of the women that had followed Jesus, ministering to Him.

Aside from this I cannot find anything else that explicitly reveals anything about their family. However, some commentaries suggest that James and John were cousins to Jesus, and they say this is corroborated by Jesus leaving the care of His mother to John, as he would have been a relative and this was not uncommon in Hebrew culture. Another clue that may show some connection between the Zebedee family and Jesus' family is from Barnes' Notes on the New Testament:

"John was admitted by our Saviour to peculiar favour and friendship. One of the ancient fathers (Theophylact) says that he was related to him.

"Joseph," he says, "had seven children by a former wife, four sons and three daughters, Martha, Esther, and Salome, whose son John was; therefore Salome was reckoned our Lord's sister, and John was his nephew."

If this was the case it may explain the reason why James and John sought and expected the first places in his kingdom, Mt 20:20,21 . These may also possibly be the persons who were called our Lord's "brethren" and "sisters," Mt 13:55,56 . This may also explain the reason why our Saviour committed his mother to the care of John on the cross, Jn 19:27."

These things may be little more than interesting tid-bits of history and genealogy of those that lived with and knew Jesus when He walked this earth, but I also think they help me to see more of the humanity of Jesus. As a child, I always pictured Him as a sort of "exchange student" in Joseph's and Mary's home, living with them but not really a part of the family. As I get older and learn more about the details of His life through study of the Word, I find that I'm getting to know Him better in all aspects of Who He is - fully God & fully human.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


I have a dilemma. Let's say that I know a person that believes that something they regularly expose their self to is beneficial to them, to their health, and to the health of others. I, on the other hand, know that this is not true. I know that, while it appears to have beneficial effects to that person now, the accumulation of much exposure to this can be very damaging to them and to their health.

However, the dilemma comes in that fact that this person is an adult, living in a "state" that allows one to pursue ends to which one believes to be leading to happiness or fulfillment, with the exception that the means nor the end must not be unlawful or deemed harmful to others, violating the rights of others to the same ends.

So, there we are.

But it's a little more than that (isn't it always?)
: I am in the position of being accountable for the welfare and safety of this person. Yet, not so much that I can explicitly command this person to "cease and desist" participation in this activity, but I am indirectly responsible nonetheless.

Let's say, for the sake of discussion, that this activity is "smoking tobacco" (we could choose any number of things instead, but let's go with this one). Notwithstanding various local ordinances restricting this activity in certain places (ie. hospitals, family restaurants, etc), this is a legal option open to all adults in the United States.

Argument against: There is literature readily available that condemns smoking and its effects. This person is aware of this literature and has even read it. However, to consent to the directives found in that literature would require the reader to respect the authority of the distributing body of the literature. In other words, one would have to believe that the author(s) have the best interest of that person in mind (maybe not specifically that person, but corporately, at least). Presumably, the author(s) have exceeding knowledge and understanding of the side-effects and consequent ends of the activity, specifically the effects on the health of the individual and the subsequent complications of participating in the activity.

Argument for
: There is no law prohibiting it outright. It is a freedom to be enjoyed by all who feel that the benefits are for them. Examples can be found of people that have smoked for years, decades even, and who exhibit no ill-effects aside from those that might be experienced by anyone with exposure to the elements (smoke and tobacco) themselves, ie. yellow fingers, increased susceptibility to cough, etc. These people might be construed as supporting the activity, in effect, debunking the literature mentioned in the preceding paragraph. They do not seem to be displaying the effects warned of by the authorities.

  • If you were in this position, at what point would you cease trying to persuade this person to stop smoking?
  • What would you be willing to suffer yourself via the consequences of persisting too much? Complete loss of relationship? A few days/weeks of "silent treatment"?
  • Would you count it victory if they quit participating unwillingly, just to appease you?
  • If there heart was not truly changed toward the matter, and you knew that they longed to pick up the activity again, would it be right to say that you convinced them to stop?
  • Maybe you've effected a "cease-fire" and the foreseeable future will be one of maintaining that tentative "peace", would that satisfy the accountability that you have for that person?
  • Wouldn't it be better if there was some way that they would just believe what they've read, understanding that no one can guarantee that they will or will not die of lung cancer based on their decision to quit? People who have never smoked have died of LC, and people that smoked their whole lives just died in their sleep one night.

Now, turn this around. What if someone else was thinking this about me? What would it take for me to be convinced in this way? Would I believe the literature? Would I trust the author(s)? Would I believe that they have my interests in mind? Would you?

Most importantly, if I chose to cease participation in the activity, would it be because I had reevaluated the information available to me and made the decision myself, in my heart, or would it be just to appease others?

What would be the eternal consequences of either choice?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Mark 1:12-15

The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." (Mark 1:12-15 - ESV)

Καὶ εὐθὺς τὸ Πνεῦμα αὐτὸν ἐκβάλλει εἰς τὴν ἔρημον· καὶ ἦν ἐκεῖ ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ ἡμέρας τεσσεράκοντα πειραζόμενος ὑπὸ τοῦ Σατανᾶ, καὶ ἦν μετὰ τῶν θηρίων, καὶ οἱ ἄγγελοι διηκόνουν αὐτῷ.

Μετὰ δὲ τὸ παραδοθῆναι τὸν ᾿Ιωάννην ἦλθεν ὁ ᾿Ιησοῦς εἰς τὴν Γαλιλαίαν κηρύσσων τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τῆς βασιλείας τοῦ Θεοῦ καὶ λέγων ὅτι πεπλήρωται ὁ καιρὸς καὶ ἤγγικεν ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ Θεοῦ· μετανοεῖτε καὶ πιστεύετε ἐν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ. (Mark 1:12-15 - GNT)

And straightway the spirit cast him into the wilderness. And he was there in the wilderness days forty being tested by Satan and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels served to him.

And after the delivering up of John, Jesus came into the Galilee, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God, and saying, that, is fulfilled the time, and approaches the kingdom of; repent and believe in the good news! (Mark 1:12-15 - Transliterated from Greek to English)

Two main themes in this passage: (1) Jesus' temptation in the wilderness, and (2) the beginning of His public ministry. I pray that the Spirit leads me through this study into His Word, revealing to me those things that He wants me to learn and meditate upon.

At "first glance", I am interested in:
  1. How did "the Spirit cast him into the wilderness". What exactly does this mean?
  2. Is there a certain relevance to "he was with the wild beasts"? Is this just descriptive context, or are we to glean something more from this?
  3. How exactly did the "angels serve him"? Can we know this? What is the relevance to this account of His temptation?
  4. Finally, how does Jesus' proclamation of "repent and believe in the good news!" compare and contrast with the gospel preached today in America?

"...the Spirit cast him into the wilderness"

Some translations use "drove" or "impelled", and in contrast to Matthew's and Luke's accounts (they use "was led up" and "led by", respectively) Mark's wording appears to be more forceful. The choice of wording here creates different affects, "driving" brings to mind a kind of 'following up behind', or maybe a 'pushing one in a certain way or direction', whereas "led" paints a gentler image of guiding or coaxing someone to follow you. Now, either one can be violent or gentle, there's no rule that says either has to be one way or another. However, since it is the Holy Spirit doing the driving, it's safe to say that violence is not part of the equation.

I just want to understand the idea here a little better, so there are a few other places in the New Testament where a similar form of this Greek word, ejkbavllei, is used:
  • Mark 3:15, 22 (casting out demons),
  • Mark11:15 (casting moneychangers from the temple),
  • Mark 12:8 (hired hands casting out the owner's son);
  • 3 John 10 (Diotrephes casting people out of the church).
This list is not an exhaustive one, but just a sampling, and I cannot say that I found 100% of the places where this word - in this tense - is used, but in nearly all of the ones I did find, it would appear to be a "forceful compelling", to say the least. I referred to a resource by John MacArthur to better help me understand this verse:

Very strong verb in verse 12, impelled, ekballo, to throw out, literally threw Jesus out, strong compulsion. This is the will of God. Jesus is not resistant, that's not what it's saying. He's not reluctant. But the Holy Spirit is now in control. The Holy Spirit who controls His life in fulfillment of God's plan literally throws Him out into the wilderness.

Please don't misunderstand this. God is not the tempter, the Holy Spirit is not the tempter; James 1 says God tempts no man. God cannot be tempted. He cannot tempt. But God will allow His own to be tempted in order that through the victory in that temptation they may triumph. The temptation then is not by chance, it is not by whim, it is not by the will of Satan. It is not what Satan planned. It is by the power of the Holy Spirit in the plan of God. (Sermon on Mark 1:12-20)

"...he was with the wild beasts"

Commentaries by Albert Barnes, Robertson, Vincent, John Gill, & Adam Clarke (among others) all point out that this reference simply conveys the desolate and savage nature of the wilderness where Jesus was at this time. As He had just technically been in the wilderness when He was baptized, He was led further into those parts where no humans lived, and probably didn't venture all too often. I like what Archibald Thomas Robertson says in his 'WORD PICTURES IN THE NEW TESTAMENT',
"Dr. Tristram observes that some Abyssinian Christians are in the habit of coming to the Quarantania during Lent and fasting forty days on the summit amid the ruins of its ancient cells and chapels where they suppose Jesus was tempted. But we are all tempted of the devil in the city even worse than in the desert."
What interests me here is the notion that "we are all tempted of the devil in the city even worse than in the desert". I think this is so true. I love to go camping. I love the solitude of a well chosen place in the woods, listening to nature, and just enjoying being outside in the fresh air with the cool breezes and a campfire. I think that this notion that we are tempted worse in the city is so true - when I'm camping I find it much easier to be "spiritual" and have that "big picture" view of life, whereas in the city, in the day-to-day I find so many stumbling blocks.

Perhaps it just has more to do with the world today and how our culture has shaped us. Today, the big city provides a cover of anonymity for most of us. There's more "tolerance" of "alternate lifestyles" in culture today, so we're encouraged to indulge our flesh, and then remind others, "Don't judge me, man!". Perhaps I'm wrong here, but I imagine that it hasn't always been so. I can imagine that the anonymity we find in the city wasn't always the case; in fact, I imagine it was just the opposite. Everyday you'd find yourself around those you knew, and society wasn't always too accepting of eccentricities, so going away somewhere alone was the only way many could indulge their sinful desires, at least with any ease of mind that no one would know. Therefore, going out to a desolate place and resisting the flesh, maintaining the disciplines required to corral your sinful desires, would have proven to be quite the ordeal. Those are just my thoughts on it.

"...and the angels were ministering to him"

διηκόνουν (diakoneo) - refers simply to the taking care of Jesus' every need. Just as Elijah was fed by an angel in 1 Kings 19, so here too our Lord and Savior was attended to by angels. I find nothing to suggest that it is anything more complicated in nature than what it says. If there is a lesson for the Christian here, possibly it is that when we refuse to put God to the test, resisting the urge to give into our indwelling sin, God's provision is so much more miraculous.

"repent and believe in the gospel"

First off, this is not an "invitation" as is so often the tradition in many churches today. Jesus is not here offering out a hand to whosoever would take it; this is a command from God. This is not take it or leave it, in the same way that any command from God is an option to us. The height of arrogance would be for the creature to turn in blatant disregard to the command of the Creator.

At the beginning, I asked the question, how does Jesus' proclamation of "repent and believe in the good news!" compare and contrast with the gospel preached today in America?

I often hear and see the gospel "boiled down" to what is called the "essentials" - usually just believe (Response to anyone that says, "I believe in God", but refuses the gospel, calling themselves a Christian but producing no fruit: James 2:19).

If any mention is made of repentance, it's quick and no real focus is made on that. Or if we dwell on it at all, it's made out to be that repentance is a one-time thing, saying we're "sorry" for all the bad things we've done, and then we hurriedly move on to the "accept Him" part.
I see no Biblical support for this model. None.

Now, of course, we want to tell the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), and our fear of man usually distorts this to mean, "don't hurt their feelings/self-esteem", and therefore we fail to illustrate from what it is that they need to be "saved". There must be a "fear of God before their eyes" (Romans 3:18). If there is no awareness of our violation of God's law, no understanding of the offense that sin presents to a Holy God, we have not loved them as we are called.
It can be difficult to understand how we are to resolve the concept of loving someone, with bringing them to an understanding of their sin as the infinite offense that it is to God. Many illustrations attempt to clear this up for us. A simple one is the idea of yelling "fire" in a theater. The people are distracted by the entertainment, oblivious to the fire outside that is going to consume them and the theater. Initially, they may react harshly as you interrupt their show, but once they understand the full message and the impending danger, their attitude soon changes.

Another illustration is to be found in parenting, where the parents must often offend their children by bringing them to an understanding that something they may want is not good for them, and there would be dire consequences if they were allowed to continue on their current course. Example: stopping your child from running into the path of an oncoming car. They only see the ball that's gone into the road, not understanding the danger posed by that situation. Or, smacking their hand when reaching for a hot stove: they cannot perceive the danger of putting their little hand near what seems like a shiny object that they want. Of course, often they will not understand fully until they've been burned.

If we fall short of leading them to a grasping of the truth that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), and that that death will be an eternity of "weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 8:12, 13:42, 50, 22:13, 24:51, 25:30, Luke 13:28), then there will be no reason for them to seek for a solution. What are we suggesting that they be saved from then?

To the person that does not see their true nature, and that that nature is opposed to God in every way, then our proposal to "accept Jesus into your heart" just appears to be us imposing a set of rules meant to lead them somewhere that they already believe their going to end up anyway. Right? Most people today really do believe that as long as they do more good things than bad, they'll go to heaven. Or they believe that because they walked down the aisle once as a teenager, and prayed a 5-minute prayer with some preacher, they've done everything they need to do to go to heaven. And more and more people dismiss the idea of hell altogether, claiming that a "God of love" would never send anyone to a place like that.

If we love them, we must tell them the truth. And that truth includes "repent and believe".
"Repentance is to leave
The sins we loved before,
And show that we in earnest grieve,
By doing so no more."
-- http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/0460.htm
Jesus taught it and so must we. Just read through the gospels and see how often Jesus called people to repentance.