The Adventures of Four

Adventures of Four

Daily Reading: (Matthew 17:1):

“After six days Jesus took with Him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.”

Today I want to look at Jesus’ inner circle and what this means for us in our pursuit of disciple making. So out of the 12 there are 3 who had the privilege of being with Jesus in some very special moments where the others did not. Peter, James and John. Every time in Scripture the three are mentioned always in this same order. Their names in this order communicated a message of what Jesus was here to do on earth.

The stone (Peter)—which the Law was written on was supplanted (James) and replaced by God’s grace (John). 

 “After six days Jesus took with Him Peter, James and John…”

Matthew wants to let us know it has been six days since the last recorded detail of Jesus’ life. By doing this we are instantly connected to the past six days and the heaviness of Jesus’ words where He prophesied about His own death and the kind of things the disciples would experience. Jesus is preparing the inner three for more responsibility than the rest. Within the various individuals that you will disciple there will be some who you should spend more time with. Everyone is unique and different and some are going to take on more of a leadership role in the future.

Luke chapter 9 tells us that “Jesus brought them up the mountain to pray.” Luke shows Jesus’ dependence on God the Father. I can not, but He can and He did and in Him and through Him nothing is impossible. This is what the disciples needed to learn because Jesus was soon to ascend to Heaven.  In this time of God’s grace that we live in, we need to place our total dependence on God. The three disciples are taken to prayer because prayer is dependence on God, invoking His power, grace, love, and goodness.

Peter near the end of his life reflects back on this moment in his life and says in 2 Peter 1:16: “but were eyewitnesses of His majesty.” What does the Mount of Transfiguration that the three disciples were privy to have to do with me? As you behold the glory of the Lord your life is forever changed. There is power for healing, freedom from addiction, and peace to a troubled soul.

When Jesus transfigured there were two well-known individuals that were there Moses and Elijah. “While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” What did the three disciples need to hear that day? What do disciple-makers need to do for those they are discipling? Bring them to grace. Listen to the voice of grace only. The names of the three testified to what was on display on the mountain that day. The Law was supplanted by God’s grace.

Matthew 17:6 “And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were greatly afraid. But Jesus came and touched them and said, “Arise, and do not be afraid.” When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one” (Matthew 17:6-8). The word “arise” (Matthew 17:7) is in the passive voice. What Jesus is telling His disciples is to “allow yourself to be lifted by God.” And when you are lifted, you realize that you stand on equal ground with Him because you have been given His righteousness. This is our job as disciple-makers to allow people to be lifted by God’s grace. Jesus died to give you His standing. This moment with the three is a beautiful picture of God’s grace.

What About the 9?

We know what was happening with the three who experienced God’s grace on the Mount of Transfiguration but what about the other nine who were not with Jesus at this moment in time?

Matthew 17:14-16: “When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. “Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.”

When the crowd saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with awe, and they ran to greet him.They were amazed to find the answer to their problems, not in themselves, but in the Lord” (Mark 9:15). The reason the nine could not drive out the demon is they tried in their own strength. The answer was always in the Lord, it is in His grace that we receive power and authority to drive out demons. It happens in the name of Jesus.

Have you wondered why the disciples were not able to heal this boy because they were successful in other places, driving out demons and “healing people everywhere” (Mark 6:13, Luke 9:6). Their past success puzzled even them when they failed on this occasion: Matthew’s Gospel says – “Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” (Matthew 17:19).

Jesus’ answer to their question why they could not drive out the demon and heal the boy might answer questions you might have about why more people aren’t healed today. The answer is not their faith, but their unbelief.

Natural unbelief is fueled by what we see and hear. We get a bad report, x-ray or scan and believe the worst. We’re now walking by sight rather than faith (2 Corinthians 5:7). Even if we have faith, our unbelief will send us to the Internet looking for reassurance and hope. We may be declaring the promises of God over our situation but at the same time we’re feeding our doubts by focusing on our circumstances. Some translators equate unbelief to having little faith, but Jesus clearly says right after this “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Little faith is not the issue. If little faith can move a mountain, it can surely heal one small boy. It’s not about the size of your faith but whether your faith is handicapped by doubt and unbelief (Matthew 17:21). How do we deal with unbelief? Starve our doubts and fears by feeding on the Word of God and through prayer.

Know Something of Me

Know Something of Me

Daily Reading: (John 1:43-51):

“The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.” Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip. When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.” Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” He then added, “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

Philip follows Jesus and then seeks out Nathanael and extends an invitation for him to do the same thing to follow Jesus (John 1:45). The simple thing that Philip does here is discipleship in a nutshell. I spend time with Jesus and then I go out seeking others who I might extend an invitation to follow Jesus.

Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (John 1:45).

Nathanael, you have got to check this guy out. Come and see and decide for yourself who Jesus is.  Everyone needs to come to a decision for themselves who Jesus is. And really there are only three options. Jesus is either Lord, a liar, or a lunatic.  C.S. Lewis created this trilemma. He said, “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Jesus: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God. Jesus said he had the authority to forgive sins, to have always existed, to intend to come back at the end of time.If He isn’t God’s Son don’t call Him a great moral teacher if these things weren’t true.”[15]

Philip puts it out there for Nathanael, “could Jesus be the Messiah?”

 “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.“Come and see,” said Philip. (John 1:46).

Nathanael is skeptical. He had in his mind what the Messiah would be like, where he would come from, and Nazareth didn’t fit the bill.

He made a generalization based on multiple experiences of Nazarenes.  Based on my life experiences can anything good come from there? His view of these people is so negative that he sweeps all of them into this negative stereotype, including Jesus. His reaction is immediate. He is temporarily blinded by his prejudice.

Look at how Philip responds and this is how we should respond when we put out a Gospel invitation and we are rejected. Respond in grace.“Come and see,” said Philip. These words aren’t pushy but continues the invitation forward and allowed Nathanael the opportunity to further investigate, even if it is only to prove himself right and everyone else wrong. So often we want to make it believe first in Jesus and then follow Him, but that is not the way it works. Follow and then believe (John 1:46). As people spend time investigated Jesus for themselves, this is how they can have their spiritual eyes opened by the Holy Spirit to see Him for who He is.

Now let’s see how this goes as Jesus meets a man who is very skeptical about who He is.

“When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit” (John 1:47).

Jesus breaks the ice with a joke that compliments Nathanael.Jesus’ joke is a play on words. “Here comes an Israelite”… Where did the Israelites come from? The line of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The name Jacob means deceiver. Jacob cheated his brother, he deceived his father, and was involved in a shady work relationship with his uncle to try and marry one of his daughters. Jacob even got into a wrestling match with God and God changed his name to Israel which means “struggles with God.” When Jesus said, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” He is literally saying here comes the lineage of deceivers who doesn’t deceive. Nathanael you are a straight-shooter who tells it like it is. Jesus eased the tension and used the moment to make Nathanael feel known.

 “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked (John 1:48a). Discipleship flourishes as a result of knowing another person.

Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you” (John 1:48b).

The fig tree was a place of prayer for Israelites. Many scholars believe Nathanael was praying for the coming Messiah. When Jesus says that He saw him under the fig tree Nathanael makes a connection.

Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel” (John 1:49). Jesus you are the one I have been praying for.

Then to conclude the conversation, Jesus started with a joke about the name change of Jacob and then He quotes a dream that Jacob had in Genesis 28:12: “He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.”

Jesus used humor to break the tension that Nathanael would have had in meeting him. The humor was a compliment of Nathanael character and it soften his heart to receive Jesus. The story of Nathanael is a reminder that Jesus sees us in our pain. He sees us in our places of doubt, anger, disappointment, and deepest longing. He knows you better than you know yourself and He loves you. His grace will lift up as it did Nathanael, and upon listening to Jesus’ words your faith will grow. He extends to you the greatest adventure you could ever be a part of to follow Him.