Friday, May 20, 2016

Peter & the Rock


Peter and the Rock

May 21, 2016

Larry R Evans
Sabbath School Teacher


INTRODUCTION

If you’ve been in this class when I’ve taught in the past, you know that I’ve often referred to the two dominant questions found in the book of Genesis:  “Where are you?” (Gen. 3;9) and “Where is your brother?”  Questions have a way of stopping us in our tracks.  They can often cause us to challenge our assumptions and by so doing a deeper truth is revealed.

Throughout the gospels Jesus asked many questions.  I have a list of over 100 questions he asked.  Here are seven and I think you will agree that they are deep penetrating questions:

1. "Do you believe that I am able to do this?" (Matt. 9:28)
2. "Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?" (Matt. 8:26)
3. "What do you think about the Christ?" (Matt. 22:42)
4. "Do you love Me?" (John 21:17)
5. "Why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord', and not do what I tell you?" (Luke 6:46)
6. "What do you want Me to do for you?" (Luke 18:41)
7. "Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?" (Matt. 7:3)

These questions are still relevant today, aren’t they?  Our study today begins with another very important question.  It is often dealt with from a theological perspective and that’s certainly relevant.  Today, however, the 5 questions that I am raising as we study Matthew 16 and 17 all originate from one single question that Jesus asked his disciples:  “Who do you say I am?
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER
1.     Preceding testing or difficult times, Jesus often gives us an opportunity for us to have our faith strengthened so that we will be able to meet a future challenge.  True or False? (Matt. 16:13-20)

2.    Peter’s confession regarding Jesus being the Messiah was significant because his statement of faith would lead to  strength to meet the challenging days ahead.  True or False?  (Matt. 16:14-18)
3.    Satan will use well-meaning friends to try to turn us away from doing God’s will?  True or False (Matt 16:22-23)

4.    Like Jesus, we are often comforted by those who listen and who are personally acquainted with our pain, weakness and or temptation even though their experience might be different.  True or False?  (Matt. 17:1-8)

5.    In our haste to defend truth we may actually misstate truth.  True or False?  (Matt. 17:24-27)
STUDY AND REFLECTION
1.  Preceding testing or difficult times, Jesus often gives us an opportunity for us to have our faith strengthened so that we will be able to meet a future challenge.  True (Matt. 16:13-20)
Read:  Matt 16:13-20
Don’t skip over the location where this conversation took place:  Caesarea Philippi.  In this region idolatry prevailed. False worship, false gods dominated the land and such believes were indeed a threat to the hope and assurance God intended His people to have.  At the same time being in this region underscored the spiritual needs of the people –the world in which Jesus would be sending his disciples
It is often helpful to view large sections of Scripture before focusing on individual verses.  Once that is done, then individuals bring forth greater insights.  The discussion between Jesus and His disciples about who He was is positioned just before the section (Matt. 16:21f) in which Jesus shares the prediction of His death. This raises an important question or observation.  Why?  Why do you think it was important for Jesus to raise this question before He told the disciples about His coming death?  It is easy for us to get bogged down with the name of Peter while allowing us to miss some very important textual insights.
There was something about Jesus question, “Who do you say that I am?” that He felt was important to be asked before He made his announcement about His death. I believe there is an important principle there that applies to our own walk with Christ.  Could it be that there was something about a restating one’s faith that actually makes a person stronger?

2.  Peter’s confession regarding Jesus being the Messiah was significant because his statement of faith would lead to  strength to meet the challenging days ahead.  True or False?  (Matt. 16:14-18)
Jesus began by asking who “people” say He is.  Its one thing to say what others say but a whole different situation when you have to explain what you believe.  But Jesus doesn’t leave it there.  He says, “But what about you? “Who do you say I am?”
It is then that Peter speaks up –“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  This is good theology but is that all that Jesus had in mind?
Notice the insightful statement by Ellen White in DA 411,
“He was about to tell them of the suffering that awaited Him. But first He went away alone, and prayed that their hearts might be prepared to receive His words. Upon joining them, He did not at once communicate that which He desired to impart. Before doing this, He gave them an opportunity of confessing their faith in Him that they might be strengthened for the coming trial. He asked, “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” { DA 411.2}
 I know that many times when we study this passage we give emphasis to Peter’s name which is in reference to a “rolling stone.”  Peter was not the Rock.  Christ is the Rock (Deut. 32:4)  Peter, himself, clarifies this in 1 Peter 2:4,5,
“As you come to him, the living Stone –rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him– you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
Roman Catholics teach that Peter is the Rock on which the church is built yet Peter makes it clear that Christ is the “living Stone” and that we who believe are being built into a spiritual house whose foundation is Jesus!
If Peter were the one designated by Jesus as having the greatest authority why would the disciples be arguing later as to who is the greatest! (Matt. 18:1)
While attention is redirected by some to the issue of “authority” the real focus of Jesus was to prepare His disciples for what was about to happen – something that would shake their faith if at all possible.  Jesus knew this and He cared deeply for His disciples and all who would go through the terrible ordeal of seeing their leader hanging as though cursed on a cross.

3.  Satan will use well-meaning friends to try to turn us away from doing God’s will?  True or False (Matt 16:22-23)
“From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”
 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men
Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you.
Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”
Note these insightful words found in the Desire of Ages, p. 416,
“Satan was trying to discourage Jesus, and turn Him from His mission; and Peter, in his blind love, was giving voice to the temptation. The prince of evil was the author of the thought. His instigation was behind that impulsive appeal. In the wilderness, Satan had offered Christ the dominion of the world on condition of forsaking the path of humiliation and sacrifice. Now he was presenting the same temptation to the disciple of Christ. He was seeking to fix Peter’s gaze upon the earthly glory, that he might not behold the cross to which Jesus desired to turn his eyes.”
Is it possible that Satan uses similar means to turn us away from the mission God has given us.
Also found in the Desire of Ages, are these words:
“Love for souls for whom Christ died means crucifixion of self. . . . The Christian is ever to realize that he has consecrated himself to God, and that in character he is to reveal Christ to the world. The self-sacrifice, the sympathy, the love, manifested in the life of Christ are to reappear in the life of the worker for God.” (p. 417)

4.  Like Jesus, we are often comforted by those who listen and who are personally acquainted with our pain, weakness and or temptation even though their experience might be different.  True
(Matt. 17:1-8)
In this passage (Matt. 17:1-8) the words “after six days” is very specific.  After six days is unusually precise. It stresses the continuity of this episode with the preceding scene in 16:13–28, and perhaps echoes Moses’ mountain experience in Exodus 24:15–18.
Why do you think this event is even recorded?  Is there any significance in verse 3?
“Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.”
But why?  Note the following insights:
“Now the burden of His prayer is that they may be given a manifestation of the glory He had with the Father before the world was, that His kingdom may be revealed to human eyes, and that His disciples may be strengthened to behold it. He pleads that they may witness a manifestation of His divinity that will comfort them in the hour of His supreme agony with the knowledge that He is of a surety the Son of God and that His shameful death is a part of the plan of redemption.” ( DA 420-421)
Throughout Matthew 16 and 17 we see Jesus doing whatever He can to prepare His disciple and His followers for what is about to take place. They had no idea though prophecies had made it clear. The question before us now is is:  “What is Jesus trying to tell us now? Are we listening?  Are we preparing?

5.  In our haste to defend truth we may actually misstate truth.  True or False?  (Matt. 17:24-27)
There is a caution given in the experience found in Matt. 17:24-27,
“After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two- drachma tax came to Peter and asked, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?”
 “Yes, he does,” he replied.
When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. “What do you think, Simon?” he asked. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes –from their own sons or from others?”
 “From others,” Peter answered.
“Then the sons are exempt,” Jesus said to him. “But so that we may not offend them, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four- drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.”
Peter was honestly trying to defend Jesus but in so doing He misstated and even misrepresented Jesus.  In Christ’s day the priests and the Levites were still regarded as especially devoted to the temple, and were not required to make the annual contribution for its support.  In Peter’s haste to defend Jesus, he actually contributed to the false notion that Jesus was not a prophet and certainly not the One to whom all the Levites represented in their ministry.
Ellen White notes,
“Only a little before, Peter had acknowledged Jesus as the Son of God; but he now missed an opportunity of setting forth the character of his Master. By his answer to the collector, that Jesus would pay the tribute, he had virtually sanctioned the false conception of Him to which the priests and rulers were trying to give currency.” { DA 433.}
CONCLUDING THOUGHT
No doubt difficult times lie ahead.  Not just financial difficulties, nor difficulties of earthly calamities.  The challenges we face are similar to those for which Jesus sought to prepare his disciples in Matt. 16 and 17.
The words of Isaiah 50:4-10 are powerful, comforting and instructive words as we reflect back on our study for today:
“The Sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue,
to know the word that sustains the weary.
He wakens me morning by morning,
wakens my ear to listen like one being taught.
 The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears,
and I have not been rebellious;
I have not drawn back.
 I offered my back to those who beat me,
my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard;
I did not hide my face
from mocking and spitting.
 Because the Sovereign Lord helps me,
I will not be disgraced.
Therefore have I set my face like flint,
and I know I will not be put to shame.
 He who vindicates me is near.
Who then will bring charges against me?
Let us face each other!
Who is my accuser?
Let him confront me!
 It is the Sovereign Lord who helps me.
Who is he that will condemn me?
They will all wear out like a garment;
the moths will eat them up.
 Who among you fears the Lord
and obeys the word of his servant?
Let him who walks in the dark,
who has no light,
trust in the name of the Lord
and rely on his God

Friday, February 12, 2016

Jesus’ Teachings and the Great Controversy

-->


February 13, 2016
Sabbath School
Larry R Evans, SS Teacher

Getting rest is good.  We all need it. This week we will be looking at the teaching of Jesus and the cosmic conflict between Jesus and Satan.  What is amazing is that when the enemy’s influence and activity was everywhere and seemingly gaining ground, Jesus tells his disciples to rest not to fight harder . . . or did He?  Maybe we don’t see what Jesus saw because we are looking for a conventional battlefield.  Note what Jesus says in Mk 6:30.

“The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” (Mk 6:30)

It appears that the extraordinary and ongoing battle between good and evil cannot be fought as an ordinary battle. It is important to note that Jesus did not just only say, “rest” but rather to “come with me . . . and get some rest.”  He realized that the kind of rest that was needed by His disciples was a rest that only He could supply. Only then could they fight “this battle” successfully.

That word “rest” is not a new word.  It is what we find God doing after He had created the world (Gen. 2:2,3).  As mankind departed from God’s plan and “the wickedness of the human race” had become so great that “every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time” (Gen. 6:5), God acted by calling Noah who became a “preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5).  Isn’t it curious that at a critical time such as this that God had a prophet whose name meant “rest.”  Do you really think this was a coincidence?

Then later, in a time of crisis, as God’s people were leaving a long bondage in Egypt and headed to a Promised Land, He put in writing not only 10 Commandments but at the very center He put the Sabbath commandment that stresses the importance of “rest”  (Ex. 20:8-11).

Today, we again find the world in a state of turmoil--wickedness and fear are everywhere.  While politicians offer their own solutions and enshroud their dreams of a new world order with descriptions of a “new hope,”  we find God describing His people with a different focus.  They are following “the Lamb wherever he goes” (Rev. 14:4).   He calls not for more armies, more economic sanctions, rather He calls His people to “worship the One who created rest in the first place. (Rev. 14:7, Gen. 2:3).  Substitutes offer no relief and actually compound the problem.

“There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name.” (Rev. 14:11)

Is it any wonder, then, that the last message to the world is all about Jesus,

“Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth –to every nation, tribe, language and people.” (Rev. 14:6)

Over and over again throughout Scripture we see God intervening in the affairs of man to bring “rest.”  The rebellious reject the one hope they have, yet God presses on.  Philip Yancey puts it this way, “Jesus, the Great Physician, sees our sins not as disqualifiers but as the reason for his journey from another world to ours.  Rescue is God’s business.” (Rumors of Another World, p.156). In reality, God’s determination to “rescue” us at a great cost to Himself is a validation of His character. 

Questions for Discussion

1.              Why do you think Jesus associated “rest” with a “yoke”? (Matt. 11:28, 29)

2.              Why is hearing truth not enough? What are some interferences that weaken the influence of God’s Word? (Matt 13:19)

3.              True or False:  “The greatest deceiver we have to face is our self?”  Why do you agree or disagree with this statement? (Matt. 7:21-23)

4.              Name at least two dangers that are inherent in faultfinding.  (Matt. 7:1-5)

5.              In Matt. 7:1-5 Jesus speaks negatively about being judgmental and about the abuse of truth (v.6).  We are left with a lot of questions but among them is, “How” then are we to fight wrong if we don’t judge it?  How then are we to standup for the right when hypocrisy abounds?  If verses 7:1-6 raises these questions then what follows is an explanation.  What do we see in the following verses that tell us “how to fight this cosmic battle.”  What connection, if any, do you see with the concept of “rest”?

6.              What is the most encouraging thing that Jesus could share with His people when they are victims in the cosmic conflict with evil (temptation, discouragement, illness, unfair treatment by others, etc.)?  (Matt. 28:20)


Some Insights to the Above Discussion Questions

1.             Why do you think Jesus associated “rest” with a “yoke”? (Matt. 11:28, 29)

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28,29)

“The last three verses of the chapter contain many echoes of the invitation of Jesus Ben Sira in the appendix to his wisdom book (Ecclus. 51:23–27; cf. also Ecclus. 6:24–31) to men to come and learn from him and take up wisdom’s yoke, so that they may find rest. No doubt Jesus and his hearers knew and valued this book, but Jesus’ invitation reveals a higher authority: it is his own yoke that he offers, and he himself gives the rest which Ben Sira had to win by his ‘little labours’.” (Tyndale Commentary)

With the words of Jesus promising  to give rest, He identifies Himself as the One who offered Moses rest: 

Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me. ’ If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”
 The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” (Ex. 33:12-14)

Note how receiving rest is linked with “Come with me” and how that echoes the assurance given to Moses that the Lord’s presence would lead to rest. Here He declared that true discipleship can be enjoyed only by those who come to Him in childlike faith.

In the heart of our greatest challenges and trials there is no lasting substitute for God’s presence.  Understanding this is vital to victory during the “great controversy.”

2.             Why is hearing truth not enough? What are some interferences that weaken the influence of God’s Word? (Matt 13:19)

“When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path.” (Matt. 13:19)

The Message paraphrase:  When anyone hears news of the kingdom and doesn’t take it in, it just remains on the surface, and so the Evil One comes along and plucks it right out of that person’s heart. This is the seed the farmer scatters on the road.”  (Matt. 13:19)

“Satan has many helpers. Many who profess to be Christians are aiding the tempter to catch away the seeds of truth from other hearts. Many who listen to the preaching of the word of God make it the subject of criticism at home. They sit in judgment on the sermon as they would on the words of a lecturer or a political speaker. The message that should be regarded as the word of the Lord to them is dwelt upon with trifling or sarcastic comment. The minister’s character, motives, and actions, and the conduct of fellow members of the church, are freely discussed. Severe judgment is pronounced, gossip or slander repeated, and this in the hearing of the unconverted. Often these things are spoken by parents in the hearing of their own children. Thus are destroyed respect for God’s messengers, and reverence for their message. And many are taught to regard lightly God’s word itself.” { COL 45.1}

3.             True or False:  “The greatest deceiver we have to face is our self?”  Why do you agree or disagree with this statement? (Matt. 7:21-23)

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles? ’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers! ’ (Matt 7:21-23)

Even if they were doing supernatural deeds—prophesying in His name, driving out demons, and performing many miracles, they were not obedient to the Father, continually doing His will (Matt. 7:21). They would be refused admission to the kingdom because Jesus had no personal relationship with them (vv. 21, 23).

How is it that some hypocrites get answers to their prayers and their ministry when some faithful believers pray for healing and never experience it?  Why!


4.             Name at least two dangers that are inherent in faultfinding.  (Matt. 7:1-5)

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matt 7:1,2)

 “Judge” often carries the connotation ‘condemn’, and it is in that sense that it is used here.  It means to bring under question in a condemning way.  This is reflected in the Message paraphrase:

“Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults—unless, of course, you want the same treatment.  That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging.   It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own.” (Matt 7:1-3)

Some dangers would include:
1.     Not seeing our own weaknesses.
2.     Driving others away because by hurting or discouraging them.
3.     Giving truth an ugly face.
5.             In Matt. 7:1-5 Jesus speaks negatively about being judgmental and about the abuse of truth (v.6).  We are left with a lot of questions but among them are: “How” then are we to fight wrong if we don’t judge it?  How then are we to standup for the right when hypocrisy abounds?  If verses 7:1-6 raises these questions then what follows is an explanation.

 What do we see in the following verses that tell us “how to fight this cosmic battle.”  What connection, if any, do you see with the concept of “rest”?

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matt. 7:7-8)



“The three balancing clauses in each of these verses add up to a strong exhortation to persistent prayer. Seek and knock are metaphors for prayer, not separate exhortations (‘knocking’ is found also in Rabbinic sayings as a metaphor for prayer). All three imperatives in v. 7 are present tense, which indicates continuous, persistent prayer. It is such prayer that will find an answer (cf. the parables of Luke 11:5–8; 18:1–8).” (Tyndale Commentary)

“This is not, of course, a guarantee that any prayer we care to offer will be successful; God gives only good gifts, which may not correspond to our ideas of what we should have!” (New Bible Commentary)

EG White:  “It is just as convenient, just as essential, for us to pray three times a day as it was for Daniel. Prayer is the life of the soul, the foundation of spiritual growth. In your home, before your family, and before your workmen, you should testify to this truth. And when you are privileged to meet with your brethren in the church, tell them of the necessity of keeping open the channel of communication between God and the soul. Tell them that if they will find heart and voice to pray, God will find answers to their prayers. Tell them not to neglect their religious duties. Exhort the brethren to pray. We must seek if we would find, we must ask if we would receive, we must knock if we would have the door opened unto us.—The Signs of the Times, February 10, 1890. { DG 83.5}

How does this relate to rest that Jesus promised in Matt. 11:28-29?

6.             What is the most encouraging thing that Jesus could share with His people when they are victims in the cosmic conflict with evil (temptation, discouragement, illness, unfair treatment by others, etc.)?  (Matt. 28:20)

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt 28:19-20)

Jesus sends His disciples out to make more disciples but He does it with the assurance that they will go with “rest” for He will be with them.

Concluding Thoughts

Going forth into the world, Christ’s disciples do so with a new kind of honesty about themselves, about Him and about their mission. Without Him there is no peace, no rest. They have nothing genuine to offer. A politicized religion is distasteful and can drive what truth remains underground.

A disciple must recognize both the cunning evil of Satan and the hope and strength offered by the presence of Jesus.

The greatest hope was given to Moses as he faced the challenge before him as he led a people to the Promised Land:  “The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”  Generations later, the same One who gave that assurance also gave the same counsel to His disciples and to us:  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” And then to make sure we got the point He said:  “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”