3. They thought they saw a ghost!

A Bible Study by Kinda Rusty (2018)

“Given the large portion of the New Testament written by him , it’s extremely significant that Luke has been established to be a scrupulously accurate historian, even in the smallest details. One prominent archaeologist carefully examined Luke’s references to thirty-two countries, fifty-four cities, and nine islands, finding not a single mistake.” — John McRay (The Evidence Bible, page1425)

I have always believed that John’s testimony was the “go to gospel” for details regarding Jesus’ life and ministry. But the quote by John McRay, author of New Testament Archaeology (2008), speaks volumes about Luke’s opening statement of his gospel …

Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us,  just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.  With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.”  (Luke 1:1-4, New International Version)

Luke adds details that Matthew, Mark, and John did not write about to each of their specific audiences.

I especially love John’s last chapter, where he recounts having breakfast with Jesus by the sea …

Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ None of the disciples dared ask him, ‘Who are you?’ They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead. (John 21:12-14, NIV)

Apparently the Teacher did not look the same as the disciples remembered from their three years of ministry with him. The same fact is alluded to in Luke 21 …

Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.

He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

“What things?” he asked.

“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him;  but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”

He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.  They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”  (Luke 24:13-32)

Then Luke tells about the next encounter of the disciples with Jesus …

They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.”  Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.

 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?”  They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence.

He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”

Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”  (Luke 24:33-49)

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT:  I find it interesting that (1) Jesus’ risen body was not like the one that had been crucified, and (2) He was able to eat! In the final book of the Bible, we hear from an angel who announces:  “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” (Revelation 19:9)

Those who are invited to attend the supper will have bodies similar — or maybe exactly like — the risen Jesus. They will not be ghosts! They will be honored guests eating real food with Jesus, their Creator.

2. Thomas needed evidence!

A Bible Study by Kinda Rusty (2018)

Matthew, Mark and Luke each mentioned Thomas as one of Jesus’ inner circle of twelve disciples. But in his writing, John went deeper, giving insight into the mindset of the man who was also known as Didymus.

According to David Reagan, writing for Learn the Bible (http://www.learnthebible.org), Didymus is Greek for “the twin.” The more commonly used name, Thomas, is Hebrew or Aramaic and carries the same meaning. So it’s believed that this apostle was actually born in tandem with a brother or sister.

In John’s gospel there are many hints about the character and personality of “The Twin.” He is first mentioned in John 11:16. Here’s that passage from  in The New International Version (NIV) of the Bible …

11 [Jesus] went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”

His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.

So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” …

16 Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

It seems to me that Thomas’ comment was somewhat disconnected from the conversation at that moment. We’re left to wonder what the heck Thomas was talking about. Maybe that’s WHY John included that statement — as a clue to his readers about Thomas’ personality (without saying exactly what he was thinking)!

In Chapter 14, John includes another interjection by his fellow Jesus follower …

[Jesus said] “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.  My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

I’m thinking that Thomas seemed rather skeptical and needed some reassurance. Maybe he was fishing for more details, rather than the cryptic talk he was used to hearing from his mentor and Teacher.

So now we come to John’s third mention of Thomas speaking. In Chapter 20, we read the following …

19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

However, Thomas was not with them during this event (we aren’t told why). This is what happened when Thomas heard that the others had seen Jesus:

24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

The skeptic finally decided to put his foot down! He refused to believe his closest friends when they claimed they had seen Jesus. Thomas  had abandoned his Teacher at the moment of His arrest, but The Twin was aware of Jesus crucifixion, and even though he had witnessed Lazarus rising from the dead, he would not believe! He still didn’t get it.

 A week later the disciples were back in their usual gathering house, and this time Thomas was with them …

[John 20] Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT: Maybe you or someone you know is a lot like Thomas — a skeptic who wants more evidence before committing to belief.If that is the case, you might want to memorize and take into your heart Jesus’ promise: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed.”

 

 

1. Peter’s good intentions

A Bible Study by Kinda Rusty

Peter was one of Jesus’ “favored” followers. He was chosen to be one of the inner Twelve apostles who stayed with their Teacher continually during His three-year ministry. He is known affectionately as “foot-in-the-mouth” Peter, because of the many times the gospel writers testified about the numerous times he boldly (and sometimes foolishly) inserted his good intentions — and characteristic  behaviors — into various situations throughout his journey with Jesus. 

But Peter was bold in other ways as well. For example, he was the only one of the Twelve who had enough courage to step out of the boat onto the turbulent lake and attempt to meet Jesus as He walked on the water toward them …

When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,”Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.”‘You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:26-34, NIV)

Peter was also reprimanded by his Teacher numerous times. For example …

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, the chief priests and the 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 concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.”  (Matthew 16:21-27, NIV)

But even though Jesus seemed incredibly harsh toward Peter, it was for good reason. He knew that His dear friend was destined to go through some terrible bouts of emotional and physical suffering later in his life, and there was only a short span of time to impress on him the importance of thinking like God rather than like a human!

For the sake of brevity, I’m going to paraphrase what happened with Peter after he was rebuked by Jesus …

  • During their time together in the upper room where Jesus and His Twelve commemorated the Passover seder together, the Savior foretold that all of His “flock” would soon scatter and leave Him. Peter boldly vowed that he would never “fall away” from dedication to His Teacher. But Jesus predicted that Peter would deny Him THREE TIMES. (Matthew 26:31-35)
  • When Jesus was arrested, Peter drew his sword and cut of the ear of the high priest’s servant! Jesus rebuked him again and miraculously healed the man’s severed ear.  (Luke 22:47-53; John 18:1-11)
  •  At that point, Peter ran away with all the other disciples. But he and John followed at a distance to see what would happen to Jesus. John (a.k.a. “another disciple”) was allowed into the inner courtyard because he was known to the high priest. But Peter remained outside at the door. While he waited, he was asked TREE times if he was a follower of Jesus — and he denied it! (John 18:1-27)

The gospel writers didn’t record where Peter went from there. He is not specifically mentioned as one of the individuals who stood at the foot of the cross throughout Jesus’ crucifixion.

But John did write about what happened AFTER the Son of God was raised from the dead. That’s because he wanted us to know that, despite Peter’s blunders, Jesus still loved him and was willing to forgive his lack of courage during the most challenging  part of their journey together

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT: Read John’s description of the scene between Jesus and Peter by the Sea of Tiberias after His resurrection (John 21), and connect the dots between Peter’s THREE denials and Jesus’ THREE declarations of forgiveness and commission of service.

A FOOTNOTE (8/8/18): I wrote this Bible study several years ago, before anything was in the news about Donald Trump in connection with the U.S. presidency.  Now as I read through it and compare these examples with the division that has developed between many who claim to be followers of Jesus, I think that individuals who can’t look past DJT’s human nature — BEFORE he received Jesus as Savior and was “born again” AFTER becoming President — are thinking as Peter did when he BELIEVED he was doing a good thing by rebuking the Son of God.

A FEW QUESTIONS …

How do your ingrained beliefs affect the way you feel about the man who many say is “God’s anointed”? Are you flexible enough and interested in TRUTH enough to ask Jesus for a sense of His Presence and divine wisdom.

Are you humble enough and courageous enough to accept HIS TRUTH? Not what you think you know about Him or what you’ve been taught during your lifetime. Can you step out of the boat, leave the other “followers” behind, and say to Jesus, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.”

NHIM,  Kinda Rusty