Peter’s Advice on the Prophetic Word

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,’ we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:16-19)

This is an amazing piece of text by the apostle Peter. Can you imagine being Peter, witnessing all the miracles Jesus performed, seeing the Holy Spirit ascending on Jesus like a dove, literally hearing the voice of God come out of heaven twice (both at the baptism and at the transfiguration), seeing Jesus in all His glory at the transfiguration, seeing the empty tomb, sticking His fingers in the nail prints, seeing Jesus go back up to heaven? And what does Peter say here?! Oh well, that’s all fine and dandy, but I tell you that the prophetic word is even a better testimony than me being an eyewitness! Crazy!! The prophetic word, which prophesied all the things which Peter witnessed up close, has come true indeed, which means that all the other prophecies are thereby also validated to be sure to be fulfilled as written. And this is amazing news! And what is Peter’s instruction? To pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. In other words, we are commanded to invest time in figuring out all the prophetic words because they will bring light in a dark place, comfort and joy where there is not, and it confirms and builds our hope until our hope is fulfilled at the end.


Recognizing the Resurrected Jesus

Why did the disciples have a problem recognizing the resurrected Jesus? I have been reading all the different verses which tell the story after the resurrection, trying to reconstruct what happens. And I am confused by the first appearance to Mary Magdalene in the garden. According to Matthew (Mat. 28:1-10), she met Jesus outside of the tomb when she was already on her way back to the disciples, and it seems like she recognized Him immediately for she worshiped at His feet. Mark (16:1-10) doesn’t really say much about it for the reference is outside of the story at the garden. Luke doesn’t recount the meeting with Jesus, but John 20:11-18 tells that she met Jesus while still at the tomb (so before she was on her way back to the disciples as Matthew tells) and she doesn’t recognize Him immediately. My guess is that John’s account is most accurate and that Matthew’s account could actually match within this.

Some other interesting observations:

  1. In Matthew 28:10, Jesus said to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” You can interpret this verse in different ways. It definitely meant seeing Jesus physically, as His physical appearance to the disciples is recorded many times. But, if it also meant seeing Jesus spiritually, then this is a prophecy and a promise!
  2. In Mark 16:10-11, Mary Magdalene “went and told those who had been with him, as they mourned and wept. But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it.” It seems that just hearing about His resurrection (although Mary had seen Him) did not avail to much for the other disciples who had not seen Him yet (also many did not even believe when they also say Him).
  3. In Mark 16:12-13, Jesus “appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them.” I wonder what this means (Jesus appearing in another form), but this is the story of the Emmaus road where in Luke 24:16 it is said that “their eyes were kept from recognizing him.” It is clear from this verse that Jesus is sovereign over who really sees Him and not, yet Jesus also said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” (Luke 24:25). Something similar is written in Mark 16:14, where Jesus “rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen.” Believe is always a heart issue! Then later “when he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.” (Luke 24:30-31), “and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.” (Luke 24:35). Again a beautiful verse displaying the sovereignty of the LORD!
  4. In John 20:20, Jesus “showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.” Thomas likewise needed to see the marks in His hands and side. Although it seems that “seeing is believing” applies here, I do believe that Jesus opened their heart first, because there are many occasions where “seeing is believing” does not apply.
  5. In John 21, “Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.” (v.4), and “that disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!‘” (v.7) only recognizes Jesus after He repeats the miracle of the great catch (see Luke 5:1-11). Was this a not knowing as in that they weren’t aware someone was watching them in the first place? Or that they saw someone standing there, but did not physically recognize him (not so much because of scars etc, but because He was standing too far off or it was early in the morning so maybe foggy or still not fully day? Or that hey did not recognize Him spiritually? In any case, later on in the story we read in John 21:12 that, “none of the disciples dared ask him, ‘Who are you?’ They knew it was the Lord.
  6. In Luke 24:12, after being told by Mary Magdalene that Jesus has risen, Peter “rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.” Although Peter had to see with his own eyes that the tomb was empty, it seems that seeing the empty tomb himself did do the trick for him.

What to say from all of this? It seems to me that it is primarily a matter of the heart that the disciples did not recognize Jesus:

  • Mary Magdalene mistook Jesus for gardener not so much because of His mutilated physical appearance (although a plucked beard indeed could make someone unrecognizable – by the way, do you think this was on purpose, to enhance the spiritual aspect of seeing Him?), but because she believed that His physical body was stolen (i.e. she did not believe He would resurrect);
  • Peter accepted Jesus’ resurrection just seeing the empty tomb (i.e. he did believe without seeing Jesus);
  • The two disciples on the Emmaus road were spiritually blinded by Jesus (by the way, do you think this was in order to give Jesus the opportunity to tell the whole history in a nutshell?) before their eyes were opened by seeing the nail prints when Jesus broke the bread;
  • Jesus on several occasions rebuked the disciples for their hard hearts;
  • Although John recognizes Jesus, it did take a realization that He repeated an earlier miracle;

There is definitely a component of His physical mutilation which hindered them from recognizing Jesus, but to me this only emphasizes even more their hardheartedness. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)

Barnabas, A Great Example of Encouragement

The first time we read about Barnabas is in Acts 4:36-37, where we read that “Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.” From the start, Barnabas is displayed as an example of his giving spirit (in comparison to Ananias and Sapphira talked about next), and is thereby encouraging the other believers.

The next time we read of Barnabas is in Acts 9:27 when Barnabas “took [Saul] and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus.” Again, Barnabas is encouraging the other believers by being an example of his loving spirit (in comparison to the other disciples who were afraid of Saul). Barnabas exemplifies 1 Corinthians 13:7 (“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.“)

Then we read about Barnabas in Acts 11:22-24 when the church in Jerusalem hears about the great things happening in Antioch, and they send Barnabas to check it out. “When [Barnabas] came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.

After that, in Acts 11:25-30, Barnabas, seeing the advancement of the gospel, goes to Tarsus to get Saul and go back to Antioch to further instruct many people. And when prophets came to Antioch with news that a great famine would come, Barnabas (with Saul) is sent to the brothers in Judea to sent relief.

Then, Barnabas accompanies Paul on his first missionary journey (Acts 13-14) to Cyprus (Barnabas’ home), Perga, Antioch in Pisidia, Iconium, and Derbe.

It is Barnabas (with Paul) who is appointed to go to the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:2), and brought great joy to the brothers in Phoenicia and Samaria on his way (Acts 15:3). During the council, Barnabas (again with Paul) encourages the council by telling about all the great “signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles.” (Acts 15:22). Barnabas gets to take the letter back to Antioch to encourage the believers there about the great news of the outcome, and “teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also” (Acts 15:35)

The last we hear from Barnabas is when he stood up for the young John Mark when Paul did not want to take him with him on the second missionary journey.

In summary, Barnabas is a great example of how, filled with the Holy Spirit, one can be a great example in giving, loving, teaching and preaching, exhorting, and defending other believers and the faith. He is truly a son of encouragement, and I feel greatly convicted (yet encouraged) by his example. But praise the LORD for Barnabas and the opportunity to always grow in walking in the Spirit. And what Paul said of himself, Barnabas can surely say about himself too, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).

Shma Yisrael

Felt an urge to post a little video where someone’s singing the Shma (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). Something to be reminded of daily!

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

What value is the book of Leviticus to the Christian?

I believe the value of Leviticus is huge and highly overlooked by most Christians because on the surface it seems like a boring list of laws and regulations which do not apply to us. But I think that with that attitude you bypass a beautiful book.

Two words come to mind when I think about Leviticus: holiness and worship. In those days the holy LORD was present in the midst of the people (Ex. 40:34, Lev. 1:1). The people of Israel must therefore properly address their sin and impurity and must strive for personal holiness. In order to approach God, worshipers must be wholehearted in their devotion (1:1–6:7; 22:17–30). The same applies to us today. We are called and commanded to worship the LORD. In order to do this we need to present ourselves appropriately. By the grace of God, through Jesus, are able to come before the LORD with confidence (Heb. 4:16, 10:19-22, 10:35). Yet, this does not mean that we don’t have to worry about our holiness! We, like in the old days, are still called to strive for personal holiness, to sanctify ourselves completely (1 Thess. 5:23), and in the truth (John 17:17), through the work of the Holy Spirit (1 Peter 1:2), and have Jesus reign in our hearts as LORD (1 Peter 3:15).

The book of Leviticus gives us a picture of the seriousness of sanctification, the utter holiness of the LORD, the utter separation we have through sin, and the foreshadowing of Jesus in the midst of it all, as it is impossible from the human side to present ourselves clean before the LORD.

The book of Leviticus gives us these pictures as it discusses the need for offerings (ch. 1-7), the need for a priesthood (ch. 8-10), the need for explaining cleanness and uncleanness (ch. 11-15), the need for atonement (ch. 16), the need for blood to atone (ch. 17), and the need for holiness (ch. 18-22). This all builds up to Jesus in chapter 23 where the holy feasts are explained prophetically for the appointed times and the ultimate redemption (jubilee and the law of redemption). The book closes then off with a series of blessings and curses (ch. 26) and vows and dedications (ch. 27).

In other words, the whole book is a picture the need for holiness as the LORD is holy, with the purpose of worshiping the LORD in all we do and are.