Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Who Do I Relate To? James?

Which one? Have you ever been in a room with too many people by the same name? Well, that happened all the time in Bible days. That's why you see them write the 'son of,' 'the father of,' 'of Galilee,' and so on.

There were several who were named James among the group who followed Jesus, with two of them being apostles.

This James was the son of Alphaeus. Alphaeus had to be a significant, respectable name worthy and familiar enough with the readers in that day to attached it to another name. Otherwise they would have picked some other way to identify this particular James.

Have you ever known someone who was always there, did their job quietly, listened at all the meetings and knew what was to be done and did it without asking a lot of stupid unnecessary questions? But they are not the ones recognized for their efforts? Others get the credit?

James was this way.

James the son of Alphaeus has nothing ill spoken of him specifically. He didn't ask questions that received mention in any of the gospels.

He isn't noted for spastic acts or standing out in the crowd.

He is a quiet worker who did not receive fanfare down here on earth. But by his death we know he did a well enough job trying to spread the news of the Messiah....After preaching in Palestine, he went to Egypt, more than likely to the Jewish settlements there, to tell them about Jesus and what he did for all of us. Only someone in one of those settlements didn't take too kindly to it and he was crucified there...martyrdom.

Where I tend to be the foot-in-the-mouth-question-asker and don't relate much to this quiet worker, I do know several who have this temperament. They are a blessing to know. I need to be more like this James.

You can read about the son of Alphaeus in the following verses: Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Who Do I Relate To? Thomas?

"You're such a doubting Thomas."

Thomas, the only apostle who was left out of the first encounter the group had with the risen Jesus made one statement, request, and has been remembered for nothing else.

Have you ever missed a party or gathering of friends? And every time someone mentions a funny thing that happened there, you're reminded you weren't there? Do you feel left out? Now I get Thomas.

All Thomas did was to demand the same thing the rest of the apostles got. He wanted equality. Who knows where he was or where he went, but he missed it all. Missed seeing Jesus. Missed the blessing/commission Jesus spoke over them. Missed it! He was, more than likely, frustrated just thinking he would never get the opportunity to partake in what everyone else received...after all, eight days passed before Jesus came back to them. I understand that feeling.

As I looked at Thomas I saw a few things.

When Jesus appeared in the locked upper room the others didn't recognize him...who's doubting Mary Magdalene now?...that is until Jesus shows them his hands and his side. Then they rejoice. Hmm. So when Jesus made his statement in John 20:29, was he talking to the whole room and not just to Thomas? Hmm.

Why was Thomas so upset about being left out?

Well, if you look back in John 11 we see Thomas as a leader. The apostles just finished trying to stop Jesus from going to see Lazarus because he might get killed in the process, which was something they didn't want. But Jesus not only insists on going to see Lazarus, he tells them he has something to show them.

It's Thomas who speaks up and tells the doubting disciples, "Come on people, let's support our leader, our teacher. He wants to show us something. Even if we die with him we have to go see what he wants to teach us."

Thomas was a leader and an encourager.

By the question/answer exchange in John 14 we see that Thomas was asking as spokesman for the group. His question shows his heart was ready to go with Jesus and didn't want to miss being with him.

So, of course he was defensive at losing out on what at the time seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime-event.

In closing, Thomas was called the twin, Didymus. Who was he a twin to? No explanation is given. He hailed from the Galilee and tradition holds that he was a quiet worker in Parthia, Persia, and India, but faced martyrdom near Madras at Mount St. Thomas.

You can read about Thomas in: Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15; John 11:16, 14:1-5, 20:24-28.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Who Do I Relate To? Nathanael?

Can you imagine being told that everything you've done and thought was on the up-and-up? That any time you spoke your mind was the right response?

That's what happened to Nathanael, our next apostle.

He couldn't believe his ears. He was even somewhat taken aback...'Do I know you? How do you know these things about me?'

Of course, once he heard Jesus' answer he was the first to publicly announce what would take the others years to believe. You always hear about Peter's confession, but Nathanael was the first to have the specific words flow over his lips.

Never mind that he almost didn't go because he thought Jesus came from the wrong side of the tracks. He went against his better judgement, so to speak, and trusted a friend. And, boy, did that pay off.

He left Cana in Galilee; followed the man he recognized as the Son of God; went by a second name (Bartholomew - which means 'son of Tolmai'); suffered the loss of his master teacher; saw angels ascending and descending on Jesus who in the end returned to life, and he lived to tell about it.

And tell about it he did, albeit quietly as compared to some of the others. He went to Armenia and was flayed to death for his teachings.

Nathanael is not mentioned in any of the gospels as asking questions that were left better unsaid. He probably knew when to keep his mouth shut, or waited to hear things out before saying anything.

How I would love to say I have some of what this man possessed...
no deceit in any part of him, an upright-thinking man who knew when to speak up and when to keep his mouth shut. A man who allowed others to take a closer role with Jesus even though he was the first to recognize him for who he truly was. A humble man who watched and absorbed all that took place.

He even wrote a gospel, according to the historian Jerome. I'm sure it reached those for whom it was intended even though it didn't make the Bible.

You can read about him in: Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:13-14; John 1:45-51, 21:1-11; Acts 1:13-14.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Who Do I Relate To? Philip?

Let's start with Philip.

He is known as being one of the quiet apostles. According to the Thompson Chain Reference Bible he preached in Phrygia; dying as a martyr in Hierapolis. His name means "lover of horses." Interesting, I thought. And John 1 tells us he's from Bethsaida, just like Andrew and Peter.

Now let me ask. Do you know someone who stands on the outside of a group listening, not participating until asked directly? Or, that doesn't assume to be part of a group until invited specifically?

That's Philip. Though he must have seen his fellow townsmen walking with Jesus he didn't join them. Jesus found him and asked him to come. How cool to be sought after by Jesus.

And, have you ever been invited on a trip, or to a party, and even though you knew some of the attendees, you wanted someone else you knew better to come along? Or, after discovering a wonderful restaurant with great food and prices, you go and tell somebody so they can experience the same joy?

Philip did this when he went for Nathanael. He even had to be a little persistent to get him to join in the adventure.

What about having a time when you wonder if the question you are about to ask is going to get you fired, or put in 'the doghouse?'

Philip experienced this when the Greeks in the group listening to Jesus wanted a private audience with him. He went to Andrew for support. They both got the lecture.

Then there was the time he was tested by Jesus. Although, I see it as Jesus setting up the situation to show how he can provide when things look overwhelming. First he showed Philip here's a problem coming - lots of people - lots of hungry people. Then he asked the question, "now what do we do?" Ever have more people than you planned on showing up for a party? Ya. That's the idea.

Granted Philip responded the way many would have responded...are you kidding? Feed them? All of them? There's no possibly way we have enough money with us to feed all of those people? Like that's going to happen! It can't be done!

Of course, as soon as he gave his short-sighted answer someone else, Andrew, speaks up with the correct answer. I see Philip thinking to himself, "I saw that."

And there's one more thing. Have you ever gotten so excited about something said to you that you didn't hear the rest of the story?

Philip does this in John 14 leading to the ever dreaded question, "Weren't you paying attention to what I just said?" He has a willingness to believe in all that Jesus will show him; it's just that he didn't pay attention to the details Jesus was sharing. Where was his head? Wasn't his head in the game?

I've been guilty of this. Asking questions that leave those around me giving the look...Really?!? In this respect, I can so relate to this man.

I learned something as I studied the apostle Philip. Burst my bubble, in fact. He is not the man who spoke with the Ethopian eunuch in Acts 8.
Acts 8:1 tells us that the apostles remained in Jerusalem while many of the others were scattered, which is followed by the recounting of the tale of the Ethopian eunuch on the road to Gaza. So logic tells us this is the recently-appointed Philip not the apostle.

To read about the apostle Philip see: John 1:43-51; 6:5-9; 12:20-23; 14. See Matt 10:3; Luke 6:14; or Mark 3:18 for the day Jesus picked the twelve.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Who Do I Relate To? (Part 1)

Have you ever scoured a stadium full of people and wondered if there was anyone there you could possibly relate to? Become friends with?

Jesus didn't have a stadium full of people but he did have a whole flock of disciples following him around everywhere, listening to him speak, hearing and seeing the heart of the law laid out before them. And, he had to choose from among them a small group to be his inner circle. Luke 6:12-16 relates this event.

Can you just picture two men, over to the side, fighting about some small item of discussion? It's possible they could be the Sons of Thunder (James and John). Jesus picked them to be his closest companions, to listen in on all conversations.

Wow. Who would have thought?

Recently I have been impressed to focus on the twelve apostles of Jesus. To see what personalities I find.

Over the next few weeks I want to share verses and information I find on each disciple. I hope to get to know them better, that we all get to know them better.

Let's see who and how many disciples we can embrace and find camaraderie with.