PARTNERS WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT: PART LXVII
It was not Mark’s style to overlook Jesus’ interest in Samaria because Samaria became a major mission outreach field for the Kingdom of God, after Pentecost and the first major persecution. Philip, one of the seven deacons, ended up in Samaria, and many Samaritans became followers of Jesus, including an Ethiopian official (Acts 8). Samaria, during Jesus’ ministry, provided a break and a rest from his hunters, the Pharisee, who tried to enlist the Herodians to hand Jesus over to them. These enemies of Jesus shunned the Samaritans and so did the Samaritan the Jews. Jesus warned his disciple about how dangerous the Pharisees and Herodians were. The Pharisees and the Herodians were like leven, and therefore, they could not be trusted. That was also the reason that Jesus went by sea north to Bethsaida, where He opened the eyes of a blind man (Mark 8:11-26). Jesus and his disciples did not prolong their stay Bethsaida, but He moved farther north to Caesarea-Philippi. And it is there, where Jesus felt that it was time to tell his disciple why He was sent into the world, and what He had to do.
JESUS BEGAN WITH A QUESTION, “WHO DO MEN SAY THAT I AM?”
It was time for Jesus to reveal His identity, the purpose of His coming, and what it would take to be one of his disciples.
And Jesus went on with his disciples, to the village Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do men say that I am?” And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others one of the prophets.” And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” And he charged them to tell no one about him.
And he began to teach them that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter, and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not on the side of God, but of men” (Mark 8:27-33; Matthew 16:13-23; Luke 9:18-22).
The identity of the “I Am” and the identity of “who was Jesus” puzzled and stunned the people. During the baptism of Jesus, a dove descended and an “Invisible Voice” announced that the recipient of the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, was the Son whom the “Voice” loved and was pleased with. Mark 1:10-11; Matthew 3:16-15; and Luke 3:22 agreed. It was common, among the Hebrews, to think of themselves as sons and children of God (John 8:51). However, Jesus did not match their prescription for their Messiah and for their Christ (John 7:52). Jesus, Himself, did not function as the Christ, but Jesus functioned as the “Son of man” and as “any God-fearing person” would. Peter’s belief that Jesus was the Christ was not comprehensible to the public or even to his own disciples. Mark and Luke stopped with regarding Jesus as the Christ. Jesus conquered that the public was not ready for being their Messiah (Mark 8:29; Luke 9:20-21).
The compiler and the editor of the Gospel of Matthew was not content with Jesus being the Messiah, but also that Jesus was the “Son of the living God.” Jesus, Himself, informed the other disciples that Peter was receiving this insight from the Spirit of God. Apparently, the Gospel of Matthew was put together, at the time, when there was a need to keep the leadership of Jesus’ Way in the hands of a Jew; and Peter was the most eligible person; and therefore, Matthew set him apart from the other disciples. John Zebedee did testify that Jesus had put Peter in charge of the sheep and the lambs (John 21:15-18). But, Peter did not have the authority alone to bind and to loosen sinners from their sins. The Risen Christ handed that authority to forgive and to retain sins to the nine other disciples, as well (John 20:23). The writer of Matthew went a step further and he had Jesus place the building of His Church into the hands of Peter. The other Gospel writers did not elevate Peter to such a lofty prominence. The bishop of Rome would complete that task, centuries later. The Jewish followers themselves regarded James, the hhalf-brother of Jesus, as the rightful leader of the movement and so did Paul (Acts 12:17; 15:13; 21:17-18). By the way, the “Keys into the Kingdom” is forgiveness (Matthew 6:14-15). Jesus also said that God was the God over the living and not over the dead (Mark 12:27; Luke 20:38; Matthew 22:32). King David gave this advice: “The dead do not praise the Lord, nor do any that go down into silence” (Psalm 115:17). The Psalmist left us this example. Rest for the Israelites was the land of promise; however, for the Christians the land of promise is a home with Christ in eternity (John 14:2).
For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. O that today you would hearken to His voice! Hearken not to your heart, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, when your fathers tested me, and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work. For forty years I loathed that generation and said, ‘They are a people who err in heart, and they do not regard my ways.’ Therefore I swore in my anger that they should not enter my rest (Psalm 95:7-11).
Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. 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” (Matthew 16:16-19).
THEN, JESUS CRASHED THE DISCIPLES EXPECTATIONS
With Jesus being the Christ, the disciples envisioned a new Israel with them holding eminent positions. Now, to hear Jesus say that He had (“must-dei” Greek) to leave them and their hope, was a shock. It was generally believed that Christ would stay! But then, how could Jesus be on His way out? It was incomprehensible that the Christ, with heavenly powers at his disposal, would submit to what they heard Him teach? How could God allow His own Son be so mistreated, so rejected, and then be killed? To confuse the disciples even more, Jesus told them that He was coming back from the dead. What kind of a Christ was He? Peter, the right-hand man of Jesus, was determined not to let this happen! And Jesus shocked him even more by telling him to cease doing what Satan wants him to do. It was “God’s Will” to endure the wages of sin and to defeat the devil in death! And therefore, Jesus freed all the souls Satan held captive (Mark 8:32-33; Matthew 16:22-23). Luke had Peter admonished of “being in liege with Satan” before Judas betrayed Jesus, His Master (Luke 22:31-34).
Let the reader and the informed Christian not be to hard on the disciples, who were experiencing these things, which would take them a long time, before the puzzle of the Christ and the Son of God, with the help of the New Testament writings, would be completed. Also, due to Nero, none of the original witnesses and the writers were no longer alive, except perhaps the prisoner John Zebedee, who told his amanuensis what Jesus meant by His departure and by His reappearance. Jesus, Himself, felt depressed and troubled by His departure.
“Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify thy name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd standing by heard it and said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world, now shall the ruler of this world be cast out; and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” He said this to show by what death he was to die. The crowd answered him, “We have heard from the law that the Christ remains for ever. How can you say that the Son of man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of man?” Jesus said to them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, lest the darkness overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.”
When Jesus had said this he departed and hid himself from them (John 12:27-36).
“But I have said these things to you, that when the hour comes you may remember that I told you of them. “I did not say these things from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you ask me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convince the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
I have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
A little while, and you will see me no more; again a little while, and you will see me.” Some of his disciples said to one another, “What is this that he says to us, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and, ‘because I go to the Father’?” They said, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We do not know what he means.” Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him; so he said to them, “Is this what you are asking ourselves, what I mean by saying, ‘A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’? Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. When a woman is in travail she has sorrow, because her hour has come; but when she is delivered of the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a child is born into the world. So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your head will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask anything of the Father, he will give it to you in my name. Hitherto you have asked nothing in my name; ask, and will receive, that your joy may be full (John 16:4-24).
THE DISCIPLES DID NOT TAKE JESUS LITERALLY
The disciples’ understanding continued to be blurry, even after Jesus told them the second time that He would be removed from them by force. Mark learned inserted the following: “But they (disciples) did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to ask him” (Mark 9:32). The writer of Matthew added, “And they were greatly distressed” (Matthew 17:23). The Evangelist Luke learned that Jesus was even more forceful in His intentions to face His fate: “Let these words sink in to your ears; for the Son of man is to be delivered into the hands of men.” But they did not understand this saying, and it was concealed from them, that they should not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask him about this saying (Luke 9:44-45). The Zebedees’ brothers believed that Jesus was taking the helm and they wanted to be at His sides. The answer was a, “No!”
And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to Him, and said to Him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are supposed to rule over the Gentiles lord over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:35-45).