The Catching of the Fish

Luke 5:1-11, ESV

“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, and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 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. And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 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.” 

“But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” 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.” 11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.”

Seriously now. You never try to catch fish during the day. The fish head to the bottom to escape the summer’s heat. At night the fishermen would use a lantern to bring the fish to the surface–that’s just the way it worked. The text makes it clear that Peter’s crew had worked all night. They were incredibly tired, and they didn’t need a simple carpenter to speak to hardcore fishermen.

Jesus had been teaching and Peter’s boat was His pulpit. Jesus had been sharing things that were profound, and Peter had been listening. Perhaps all that he heard resonated deep inside. Jesus’ teaching went far beyond what Peter heard in the synagogue. He knew he was in the presence of the Messiah. For once, he was hearing God’s voice talk to his heart.

Much began to happen at this point in the story.

Jesus requested that they took their nets and go fishing again. This time in broad daylight, and that was something that wasn’t done. It seemed absolutely foolish, and yet this man Jesus was asking that these fishermen would do it. Peter as the chief made the decision. They would fish, if only from obedience.

Their nets were now starting to break.

They had taken so many fish that they couldn’t take the load. Peter’s boat cried out for other boats to intervene. The catch was way too much. Both boats together carried so much that they were at the point of sinking with the weight. At least that’s been told.

What was Peter’s response to all of this?

We see him kneeling in the pile of fish. We hear his cry, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” Peter understood and made this astute observation. First of all, he was sinful. Second, he knew that he didn’t belong. Third, he understood who Jesus was. I don’t think Peter ever shook that experience. He knew deep down that he was never ever going to be worthy. It was a great prayer, but at that moment Peter didn’t know that.

From then on, they would be catching men. Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 would lead 3,000 to the Lord. At that moment he “fished” for souls. He had finally become God’s fisherman. He had become God’s mouthpiece to a world that was waiting for him to speak.

There’s so much more in this passage. I deeply regret I can’t bring it out. I only hope that this’s a start, and that you can “excavate” more. The ball’s in your court now. Try to make it count–for Him.

Meet The Thief on the Cross

Luke 23:39-43, CSB

“Then one of the criminals hanging there began to yell insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

40 “But the other answered, rebuking him: “Don’t you even fear God, since you are undergoing the same punishment? 41 We are punished justly because we’re getting back what we deserve for the things we did, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

43 “And he said to him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

The pain was incredible, but I know that deep down I deserved to die. But not like this. Never like this. I was almost out of my mind with fear. What they were about to do to me was terrifying.

You must understand that I was a common thief. I had stolen a loaf of bread when I was eight years old and that’s how it all got started for me. It more or else got bigger and easier. I knew how to steal and I was quite good at it. I was Jacob, the master thief!

When I was finally caught, they had sentenced me to die. I supposed it was inevitable. I fault no one but myself as I knew what I was getting into. As I dragged my beam up to Golgotha, it was really strange but I suddenly remembered a verse from the scripture and it really did unsettle me.

“Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.”

It’s a terrible thing to die this way. There were three of us, nailed to the wood and lifted up between heaven and earth. Jesus was nailed to the middle cross, not that it really mattered; all three of us were going to die today. Many hope for a simple and easy death, maybe in their sleep–but that’s not going to happen to us.

The third man could only mock, he was afraid, and I suppose he just echoed those Pharisees who didn’t really understand. But I knew better. I knew who this other man was, I had heard all the stories. Deep down I knew that this man on the center cross was the Messiah.

A crowd had gathered to watch us die. The Romans in their wonderful ingenuity had made a sign that they nailed above Jesus’ head, and it declared that to everyone that Jesus was “the king of the Jews.” Even as he was dying, they found a way to malign him and to irritate the crowd.

The other man being crucified continued to mock Jesus, and it infuriated me.

Why I defended him I don’t know for sure.

But I understood. He was being murdered out of envy and jealousy. He didn’t deserve to die like this, but the powers that be hated him, and who can confront these religious men without becoming a victim. Jesus had repeatedly crossed the line, so now they were now putting him to death. It seemed evil was really winning today.

I saw the soldiers throwing dice for Jesus’ clothes. He was now being mocked by them as well, even as he was dying on a brutal cross.

But all of a sudden it all made perfect sense, he really was the Messiah, and these bastards were killing him. Crucifixion was starting to work on me now. I began to choke on my words, and it was getting hard to breathe.

“Jesus… please remember me. When your Kingdom comes, please let me be a part of it.”

And as beaten as he was, he managed to turn and look directly at me. They had whipped and brutalized him, and yet he was still aware. His words were whispered now, but I understood. “I promise that today you will be with me in paradise.”

I was starting to spasm again, but the horror of death had left me. Some time had passed, and I could hear his breathing stop. But for the first time, I had peace. They used a spear on Jesus, but he was already dead.

The soldiers now came to the two of us, and they were carrying an ax to break our legs. It all had to do with the coming festival, and the Pharisees wanted us dead. When they swung that ax I knew pain that I could never describe. My own death came quickly after that.

I was suddenly standing in paradise, whole and complete.

Someone was standing before me. He was shining I remember, and I knew he was powerful; stronger, and he was more glorious than anyone I had ever met. It was crazy but somehow I knew that he was an angel and he had been sent to meet me. It’s funny, but I realized that somehow I really did belong. Me–a dirty rotten thief.

Jesus had promised me, he had pronounced me righteous, me of all people. I suddenly had a joy that I could never explain. I really was a part of the Kingdom that was beyond anything I had ever known. And all I can really say about this was that I was privileged to die with him. That is all I could claim. I simply believed him and asked if somehow I could be part of his eternal rule.

I simply asked and he gave me everything.

Cover Art: “Christ on the Cross between Two Thieves,” by Peter Paul Rubens

Looking at the Transfiguration

Mark 9:2-8.ESV

“And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified.” 

And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.”

I could go a hundred different ways with this. After much thought (disorganized most of the time) I’ve decided to go with the following. I know deep down how foolish it is, and I know you have much to add to it, which is very good. God speaks and shows us that each has a piece that others don’t have. If only we can accept that, our understanding would change.

I believe that the Transfiguration of Jesus ranks right up there with His resurrection. The more I try to process Mark 9 the more I see things that really matter. What happened there was radical, and I realize that I still don’t have a solid grip on it, and if I did I know deep down it’d change my life. But what I do understand I give to you.

  • James, John, and Peter. Why these three? Some have suggested that these particular disciples were the ones who desperately needed to see what was going to happen. That’s very possible. Perhaps they were the weakest, and maybe they needed to see what was about to happen. My personal view is that these three wrote books, epistles. Maybe Jesus understood this, and gave them this earth-shaking experience?
  • The impact on Peter was profound. “”For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with Him, I am well pleased.”  We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.” (2 Peter 1:16-18). Toward the end of Peter’s life he couldn’t shake the Transfiguration and what he witnessed there. He recalled the “glory” but it seems it was the voice that was the most profound. It was that voice that completely altered his life and ministry. (Notice that he mentions it twice in verse 18.)
  • The original Greek word for “transfigured” is metamorphosis. (Like a butterfly coming out of a cocoon.) Jesus wasn’t put in some spiritual “spotlight,” rather the glory that was seen was coming from inside Him. He was God and Jesus revealed Himself clearly as God. The three disciples who were witnesses seem to struggle with exactly what took place. They use human analogies and images to try to explain to us what took place.
  • The word for “terrified” is the word “phobia.” Could it be that our encounter with God could go to that extreme? Could we be that we could be terrified in His presence? Does that fit into our theology?
  • And what about Moses and Elijah? Most feel that each represented the Law and the Prophets who were part of the whole scene. They conversed with Jesus. What they talked about I have no idea. (I wish I did.) But notice, even though Jesus emanated glory, these two did not. Also, the arrival of these two reinforces the real world of life after death. Both Moses and Elijah were very much alive.
  • The “human” part of Jesus was temporarily set aside. We know that Jesus was fully man, but here we see Him as He really is–fully and completely God. What a revelation! The three disciples were profoundly touched. Seeing the power and glory of the Creator of the universe on the top of the mountain altered their lives and changed their ministry.
  • John would write his Gospel and three letters. James wrote the first book in the NT. Peter is credited with the Gospel of Mark and his two books. They “knew” exactly who Jesus was! They had become fully convinced and needed no theological explanation. They finally understood!

So much more should be considered.

What I’ve written today is so incomplete–I feel a little foolish putting this down in this post. But yet I’m actively praying for you that this might add to your understanding. The Transfiguration is profound. It certainly needs to be internally processed by every real believer. And for those who don’t know Jesus yet, I hope you can understand exactly who He is to us who believe.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him, nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

John 1:1-4, NIV

Meet the Centurion and Discover Real Faith

Matthew 8:5-13

 When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”

Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”

The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 11 I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment.

Obedience had been ingrained in me. I understood authority and submission to my superior officers. It’s called “the chain of command” and it’s the reason why armies function the way they do. I ultimately acceded my will to my superior, who’s under authority himself. I also have soldiers who I command. I led over 100 men as the occupying force in Palestine.

We were hated and despised.

My servant was sick, and I knew that he was suffering greatly, but I had run out of options. My servant was the only family I was allowed to have. Since I served as a centurion I was not allowed to have a wife for the duration of my service. Over the years I’ve kept good and trustworthy servants with me–these men were very dear to me. They became my family.

I certainly was aware that both my men and I lived in constant danger from radical Jews.

I had exhausted all my efforts to bring some relief and healing to him–and it seemed to be getting worse, not better. My “contacts” told me of an itinerant teacher who had a reputation as a healer. It seems Jesus had a large following and I realized that He could be my last option.

So I went to Him for help and Jesus responded. But He wanted to go with me to my home. His willingness to come encouraged me, but I simply couldn’t allow that. Jesus’ visit would’ve made Him ceremonially unclean–I was a Gentile, a “dog.”

My home was off-limits.

But I did understand something. I was under authority as an officer in the Roman army, and my men also took orders. Obedience meant survival in a hostile environment like Judea. Our entire unit was drilled constantly and we all understood the need for a “chain of command.” Each of us obeyed our superiors. We had to.

With all this in mind, I asked Jesus to heal my servant with just a word.

He marveled at this. He said that my adherence to protocol was evidence of real faith. Those who were with Jesus were told something earth-shaking. My trust meant something, He made me an equal with the Israel patriarchs. My faith was to be emulated by the Jews.

He then told His followers that my confident trust was respected and acknowledged as evidence of God’s favor.

Simply, Jesus spoke a word and when I returned home my servant would be healed. I returned home to find him healthy.

“Christ will always accept the faith that puts its trust in Him.”

    Andrew Murray

Please visit my new site, alaskabibleteacher.com. If you liked this teaching, I really think you like this one too.

Meet the Man of the Tombs

Mark 5:1-15, CSB

They came to the other side of the sea, to the region of the Gerasenes. As soon as he got out of the boat, a man with an unclean spirit came out of the tombs and met him. He lived in the tombs, and no one was able to restrain him anymore—not even with a chain— because he often had been bound with shackles and chains, but had torn the chains apart and smashed the shackles. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains, he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones.

6 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and knelt down before him. And he cried out with a loud voice, “What do you have to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you before God, don’t torment me!” For he had told him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!”

“What is your name?” he asked him.

“My name is Legion,” he answered him, “because we are many.” 10 And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the region.

11 A large herd of pigs was there, feeding on the hillside. 12 The demons begged him, “Send us to the pigs, so that we may enter them.” 13 So he gave them permission, and the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs. The herd of about two thousand rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned there.

14 The men who tended them ran off and reported it in the town and the countryside, and people went to see what had happened. 15 They came to Jesus and saw the man who had been demon-possessed, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid.

My name was Legion. I was called that by all who knew me. But it wasn’t a pleasant name, it was a name of darkness and horror. I was possessed by demons; there were so many of them that I was given this awful name. “Legion, 6000.” So much darkness. Wonderful, isn’t it?

My days were filled with awful confusion and stark raving terror.

I ran naked among the tombs, cutting myself on the rocks. When they chained me I found a demonic, super-human strength to break their bonds and shatter the shackles. I would free myself to run wild among the caves once again. No man could tame me. I was the central force of evil in this area of the Gerasenes. I was feared by all.

I was completely insane.

I can recall little through my darkness, and I suppose that was for the best. My madness permeated everything. My life had become completely saturated with evil. What little I know I will tell you. Try to imagine the condensed insanity of a mental hospital crammed into one’s little mind.

It seems on that day I was on the Gerasenes’ “welcoming committee.” I ran to greet Jesus before he even got out of the boat. I remember falling at his feet. I knew instinctively who He was. He was Lord over my darkness. I suppose that deep down I knew that only He could free me.

The authority of Jesus enabled him to speak directly to my demons. I remember how they tried to negotiate their way out, and He calmly sent them into a herd of swine nearby. There were about 2000 pigs and my evil spirits left me and entered them. The pigs went berserk and then they destroyed themselves. They couldn’t handle all the evil that I had ‘bottled up’ inside me.

With Jesus’ firm and decisive command, the darkness immediately left me alone.

Suddenly I could no longer hear their vile words. I knew that I would no longer have to carry out the disgusting will of my demons. There were no voices in my head. I stood up as a free man for the first time in years. Jesus Christ had decisively intervened. I knew now that He was my Messiah and my deliverer! My liberator who was sent from God. Just for me.

Someone gave me a robe to cover up my nakedness. I sat at Jesus’ feet in wonder at what had just happened. It didn’t take long for the townspeople to arrive. They came and found me clothed and completely sane. I suppose it was out of fear that they asked Jesus to leave the region immediately.

I only wish they understood.

When Jesus was getting into the boat I wanted to join Him. I simply had to be close. But Jesus told me no. He told me that I needed to go home to my family, and I must tell them everything. “Tell them all of the power and mercy I have had on you.” As I watched them sail away I knew that I wanted to do what He wanted.

I would now be Jesus’ ambassador to the Ten Towns.

I explained everything that had happened to me and all that Jesus could do for them. I was now His very visible witness. I shared about the power and authority of the Lord Jesus Christ over my incredible darkness. I was now a source of His light to my people. I had to witness.

My darkness was completely gone, and I couldn’t control my joy!

Lord Jesus, You completely rule the spiritual forces of darkness. Help me to remember this and assist me with my own dark issues. I want to be free from all that opposes You. I must tell others of what you’ve done for me. Amen.

Little Christs

Luke 9:1-6, Amplified

Now Jesus called together the twelve [disciples] and gave them [the right to exercise] power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases. Then He sent them out [on a brief journey] to preach the kingdom of God and to perform healing. 

And He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey [that might encumber you]—neither a walking stick, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not even have two [b]tunics apiece. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that city [to go to another]. And as for all those who do not welcome you, when you leave that city, shake the dust off your feet [breaking all ties with them] as a testimony against them [that they rejected My message].” 

So they began going from village to village, preaching the gospel and healing the sick everywhere.

Jesus called the twelve of us together that day for a reason–He wanted us to start doing His work, which, I admit wasn’t really in my thinking. But this was His plan, and He knew exactly what He was doing. I didn’t feel remotely competent, and the thought of doing what Jesus did seemed a bit sacrilegious. I was very intimidated.

But now I can see that was what He intended all along, to push us into the supernatural–preaching, healing, and exorcising demons. He wanted us to touch people, to meet the needs of the desperate, and by doing so, extend the kingdom of God.

We were all skeptical, obviously. We weren’t Jesus, not by a long shot, and we had no right or ability to do miracles. On our own, I we were still fishermen and tax collectors. And honestly, what Jesus was asking (or commanding?) was for us to leave what we felt was comfortable and to step into His sandals. He wanted us to be just like Him.

He gave us His authority and power–it was His to give.

I suppose that this was the key to it all. We had witnessed fantastic miracles, stunning things that pretty much undid us. Jesus repeatedly defied the laws of nature—with just a word. And we’re His disciples, so I suppose that meant we needed to step out and touch people just like He taught. I guess that was Jesus’ plan for us all along. We just thought it wouldn’t happened this quick.

So the power and authority was given and we became “little Christs.”

Two by two we went in different directions to discover for ourselves what would happen. The needs we encountered were substantial. The world was a needy place that made its home in the pain and darkness of the demonized and the desperate. It seemed overwhelming. I think we all felt weak and very inadequate.

It’s funny, but we suddenly saw all these people through His eyes–it’s like we never had seen them before. We were now cloaked in Jesus’ very own power. When we laid hands on people astonishing miracles began to happen. All at once there were needs all around us. And the people kept coming.

I began to understand what it really meant to love people. We had left the relative safety of learners and had now became doers. I suppose we realized that there was an incredible difference between the two. We were all astonished by what we saw, at that moment we had few doubts about what was happening inside of us.

It changed us like nothing else could!

Being made into “little Christs” made perfect sense. We saw fantastic miracles and dramatic victories over dark demons. The things we had seen Jesus do were now the things we were doing! Suddenly everything came together and we understood many of the words that He had tried to drill into our thick skulls.

From village to village we went–we stayed with whoever wanted us. The needs we saw were staggering, from sunrise to sunset people came. Wherever we turned there seemed to be somebody else, but Jesus’ own authority was always present, it never diminished or weakened. It was like a bubbling spring that never once ran dry.

I suppose what happened inside me was just as much a miracle as we had seen Him do for others. I was astonished–up to now I never realized how exciting it was to follow the Lord Jesus. What a joy to see the face of a man or woman who was set free. It was such a thrill to touch a little boy’s dead eyes and suddenly realize that he could see!

So this is what it honestly means to be His disciple!

“Truly I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do. And he will do even greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.”

John 14:12

Meet Jesus, Who Calmed a Storm

Mark 4:35-41

On that day, when evening had come, he told them, “Let’s cross over to the other side of the sea.” 36 So they left the crowd and took him along since he was in the boat. And other boats were with him. 37 A great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking over the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38 He was in the stern, sleeping on the cushion. So they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher! Don’t you care that we’re going to die?”

39 He got up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Silence! Be still!” The wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 Then he said to them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

41 And they were terrified and asked one another, “Who then is this? Even the wind and the sea obey him!”

It was Jesus’ idea to cross the lake. It seemed He had a reason why, and as we read this we understand His motives. It’s obvious that Jesus understood that there was “people to see, and places to go,” (Mark 5:1-19). There were crowds of others who “tailed” Him, wanting to see what would happen next. Jesus was a magnet it seemed.

It seems that the boat belonged to Peter, and the journey across the water would take some time, it was 5–6 miles at this crossing point. It’s important to know that many of Jesus’ disciples were seasoned fisherman and I imagine that the trip would be fairly routine to them. But what’s going to happen next isn’t anything but.

The storm picked up quickly as they often do.

For these experienced sailors this wasn’t a big issue. Storms were manageable, however the text tells us that there came a point when the winds and waves began to fill the boat. They couldn’t bail it out fast enough. The storm seemed to ‘explode’ and it seems that they weren’t prepared to deal with this. It wasn’t in their plans.

That’s often the way things happen isn’t it? Following Jesus isn’t always smooth sailing in calm waters.

Things got so bad so quick that they turned to Jesus. Apparently He was catching 40 winks on a cushion in the back of the boat. (Why He was sleeping I have no idea; He must’ve been worn out by a full day of ministry.) When everything is spinning out-of–control it’s at the point they finally call on Him.

They woke Jesus up. (I guess if you’re about to drown it’s probably a good thing to be aware of it anyway.)

The disciples knew they had lost the battle. The storm was about to send them to the bottom of the Sea of Gaililee. In just a few moments they all were going to drown. Imminent death is a great time to call out to Him.

It was at this point that the disciples turned to Jesus. Why the delay? It doesn’t make sense, but knowing myself I only seem to call on Him when things get out-of-hand. My first response is trimming the sails and to start bailing. I don’t think about calling on Jesus until I realize that I’m not really in control.

In tradition it was God who was able to control storms, (see Psalm 107:29 and Jonah 1:4). When Jesus stood up and took on that authority over the wind and waves He was acting as the Messiah. But more than that, He was behaving as God.

Jesus’ question to them drills right to the heart of things in verse 40.

This is what triggered the response of the disciples in verse 41. Perhaps they were more scared of Jesus than the storm?

Incidently, the words Jesus used as He spoke to the storm means “be muzzled.” He uses the exact same words as He casts out the demons of the man in the very next event (Mark 5:7-9). I wonder. Could it be that the storm was a satanic/demonic attack? Maybe?

“O LORD God of hosts, who is mighty like You, O LORD? Your faithfulness surrounds You. You rule the raging of the sea; when waves rise, You still them.” 

Psalm 89:8-9

Meet Peter and the Fishes Mouth

When they came to Capernaum, those who collected the temple tax approached Peter and said, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?”

25 “Yes,” he said.

When he went into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do earthly kings collect tariffs or taxes? From their sons or from strangers?”

26 “From strangers,” he said.

“Then the sons are free,” Jesus told him. 27 “But, so we won’t offend them, go to the sea, cast in a fishhook, and take the first fish that you catch. When you open its mouth you’ll find a coin. Take it and give it to them for me and you.”

Matthew 17:24-27, CSB

Taxes! We had just arrived home in Capernaum when the tax collectors showed up. How they knew we were back in town I have no idea. But they did. I guess it shouldn’t surprise me. These guys have a tendency to show up when you’re broke.

Taxes. They knew that Jesus was a teacher, a rabbi, and they had the audacity to ask if he was somehow exempt from paying to support the Temple. I had to tell them that He to had to pay, but honestly, I wasn’t sure.

I went back into the house and Jesus was waiting to quiz me.

He surprised me by knowing what had just occurred with my encounter with these tax guys. He knew. He asked me what I thought–(Jesus always seemed to ask me questions like that. I hated being put on the spot.)

“From strangers” seemed to be the simple and logical answer. Jesus explained that He’s not liable to pay this tax, because the Father certainly doesn’t require it of His own Son. I realized then that was the real lesson that He wanted me to understand.

But rather than insist on His “sonship,” Jesus didn’t want to create an issue with anyone. He asked me (the commercial fisherman), to throw out a line and a hook–He told me that the first fish that I caught would have a coin in its mouth!

I must tell you that it happened exactly like He said it would.

The fish I caught had a drachma in its mouth. What can I say? It was there and it undid me. It happened and I understood again that He really did have power.

Jesus told me to pay the tax–His and mine. He knew He didn’t need to pay. Rabbis were exempt from this, and yet Jesus didn’t want to offend anyone, He paid the tax to avoid any objection.

_______________________

Bryan’s note: I’ve pondered this miracle of Jesus, and it astounds me. A fish with a coin in its mouth! But in this, He shows His power. Consider for a moment the story of Jonah where a big fish was specially created to be the vehicle for a disobedient prophet. Jesus reveals His omnipotence over all things.

Jesus is the Creator and He does this without any problem at all. He simply does it. He is God after all.

“All things were created through him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created.”

John 1:3, CSB

Meet Simeon in the Temple

Luke 2:25-35

There was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, looking forward to Israel’s consolation, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he saw the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Guided by the Spirit, he entered the temple. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform for him what was customary under the law, 28 Simeon took him up in his arms, praised God, and said,

29 Now, Master,
you can dismiss your servant in peace,
as you promised.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation.
31 You have prepared it
in the presence of all peoples—
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and glory to your people Israel.

His father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and told his mother Mary, “Indeed, this child is destined to cause the fall and rise of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be opposed— 35 and a sword will pierce your own soul—that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

Yes, there were rumors. The priest Zechariah declared that his son would become the Messiah’s forerunner. And apparently, angels had visited shepherds in their fields. Each encounter had come exactly how it was foretold.

I’m convinced that the Holy Spirit had led me there that day.

I have no doubt that He was guiding me to the Temple. God had promised me that I would see with my own eyes the coming Messiah. This One would be salvation and be a light to the Gentiles which would bring glory and honor to the Jewish nation.

If these were of God, there needed to be collaborating witnesses that would foretell His work. One or two might be a mere coincidence, but three were a definite declaration. Plus I knew that my own eyes would see Him face-to-face.

To be perfectly honest, I really didn’t know what I expected to see. But I knew God’s heart, and I wanted to do His will. Some might say I was a devout believer in Israel’s prophetic purpose. I knew and believed that.

I had God’s promise that I would see Him.

Something or someone was prompting me to the Temple. I guess I had a divine appointment to keep. God had given me His promise, and I knew I was where I was supposed to be. It seemed like I was always on the lookout for that fulfillment.

It was then I saw the Child.

His parents stood out like something florescent. It seemed as if they were color in a black and white world, and they held the baby who was going to change the world. When I saw them I knew that everything had fallen into place. I saw the promise and He had come to save the world.

I took Jesus and held Him in my arms.

I was holding the Savior! This baby was to save the entire world from their sins. The Law required me to dedicate Him to God. Who can say what that means? I was to devote Him to God’s purpose and plan. Who had this honor, and who can say that this was their privilege? I had been chosen to insert Him into the purposes of God.

Who can say that?

When I laid my hands on Him it was like touching lightning. I spoke the blessing, but I understood that there was something more. I looked at His mother and spoke. It was both a blessing and a warning. I understood what God wanted to say, and it was a word that Israel’s hope would also have a sting that His mother needed to understand.

When I left the three of them in the Temple courts I began to grasp the reality of it all. I spoke God’s heart to His mother Mary. She had to know and understand who this Child really was. For me my task was complete.

I had spoken, and now it was time to leave.

“In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s Temple
    will be the highest of all mountains.
It will be raised higher than the hills.
    There will be a steady stream of people from all nations going there.”

Isaiah 2:2

Art: “Simeon holding Jesus,” by Andrey Shishkin, painted in 2012, Oil on canvas © Andrey Shishkin.

Verses used: Christian Standard Bible

Mastered by Jesus

“A Christian is not a person who believes in his head the teachings of the Bible. Satan believes in his head the teachings of the Bible!”

“A Christian is a person who has died with Christ, whose stiff neck has been broken, whose brazen forehead has been shattered, whose stony heart has been crushed, whose pride has been slain, and whose life is now mastered by Jesus Christ.”

–John Piper

No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.”

John 15:15

It seems that the purpose of life is not to find our freedom. It’s really meant to find our Master.

Yes, the idea of being a slave to anyone is repugnant. We chafe at this, and yet man was never meant to be seperated from the Lordship of Jesus. We’re instructed repeatedly with the New Testament idea that “our life is not our own”  Over and over God proclaims Himself as the King.

That troubles us somewhat.

Not so much when life is fairly good, granted, but in those hard moments when a decision must be made between enjoying the titillating “lusts of the flesh,” or accepting the fruits of the Spirit. This is one of those “lordship moments.” They come, and go, and they show us exactly who we are.

If you’re really going to be authentic–a legitimate and real disciple, then you must determine who is going to be “boss.” This isn’t one of those casual decisions. You must securely fix it in your heart.

Your decision must become a settled issue.

The thief on the cross knew salvation, he was promised an eternity with God simply by faith. But I submit to you that he had put himself under the Lordship of Jesus, simply by recognizing the sign, “the King of the Jews.” I believe he saw and understood its imlications. Jesus was King!

This is a very hard word for some, but many of our personal issues hinge on this.

I know this first-hand. It can be a monumental struggle. You must admit to not only having Jesus as your Savior, but you also must put your life under His total Lordship.  You need to pick up your cross daily in order to follow.  You need to learn how to kneel.

I’ve chosen a crown to open up this post–it’s done on purpose.  I simply want you to to understand the supreme call He has on your life. Here’s Bob Dylan, and he nails this idea down:

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

You must learn here and now how to kneel before the Sovereign King

 

Related: “Am I Like Peter”; “The Scum of the Earth;” “Those Strange Christians.”