top The Men Jesus Chose #3 Saturday, December 16, 2017
The Men Jesus Chose #3
A study of their character and the message they proclaimed
By, James L. Thornton
2. The Sons Of Thunder James & John
2a. Their Family
2d. John On Patmos
2e. James Beheaded By Herod
2f. Jesus Entrusts His Mother To John
3. Jesus’ Farewell Address
3a. The Vine And The Branches
3b Conditions Of Fruitfulness
3c. Unfruitful Branches Are Cut Off
4. The Great Commission
5. The Parting Blessing
6. Promise Of Return
7. The Gospel To The Whole World
This is the third and last of our studies in a series on The Men Jesus Chose. The twelve were handpicked by Jesus, and became missionaries of a message that changed the world. We could sub-title this study “The Miralce Of The Twelve."
We want to know these men Jesus chose, in whose honor Cathedrals have been built, and whose names have been used in naming multitudes. The miracle was that principally through their efforts, within three and a half centuries, proud imperial Rome yielded and bowed to the glad tidings of the redeemer from Galilee.
In The first two studies we covered ten of the The Men Jesus Chose and in this Study #3 we will cover the last two, James and John. We hope you will read all of these studies and will gain a great respect for these men. We have already covered a great deal in The Men Jesus Chose #1 and The Men Jesus Chose #2 we will continue the study in this Section #3.
2. Sons Of Thunder:
^^ James, Son Of Zebedee ^^ ^^ John, Son Of Zebedee ^^
Mark 3:17. “And James the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James; and he surnamed them Boanerges, which is, The Sons of Thunder:”
We want to study these two Apostles together because there are so many similarities in their lives and background. John was the first of these two brothers to meet the Lord at Bethabara where John the Baptist was baptizing, along with Andrew and Peter (John 1:28).
In the weeks and months which followed, their introduction to our Lord, they must have given James a complete story of this Prophet from Nazareth; I feel he was deeply moved by it. I feel that James was anxious to meet and hear Him for himself. And when Jesus came by that day in early spring James was ready when the call to follow came to him; He dedicated His life into Jesus’ service.
James, the son of Zebedee is always cited among the first three Apostles in all lists yet scripture reference to Him is scarce. So the material of his character is limited. But I feel what the Bible does say about James will help us to paint a fair portrait of the first Apostolic martyr of the Christian Faith.
It is far different with his younger brother, John. Of the twelve, the story of John is most complete. Only Peter is mentioned more often. John is revealed to us, not only in the first three Gospels, but his own writings and by his silence. With true humility, John seldom alludes to his own existence. In the 21 chapters of his Gospel his own name is never used by him. When the Apostle John came to write his Gospel he referred to the forerunner of Jesus without the usual distinct Baptist. The Apostle calls him John as if he were the only John of the nation, of the time and Gospel.
In John’s Gospel he alludes to himself as, “the other Disciple;” (John 18:16) and “The disciple whom Jesus loved.” in (John 21:7) It is interesting to note that in the Christian world more men and boys bear the name John than any other name. The other popular names are James, Thomas, Paul, Andrew, Peter, Philip, Stephen, Nathaniel, Matthew and Timothy. This shows the tremendous influence which this band of men still holds upon the world.
2a. Their Family:
James and John were sons of righteous parents Zebedee and Salome, who lived in Bethsaida on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Their Mother’s name was Mary, surnamed Salome, who was most likely a sister to Mary the mother of Jesus, so they, no doubt, were cousins to Jesus?
Zebedee was a man of means and influence He also owned a house in Jerusalem and was known by the High Priest (John 18:16). The verse which we read in Mark 1:20 tells us he owned a fishing business and had hired servants to help in this business. The glimpse which we have of him mending his nets shows the secret of his success.
He personally supervised his fishing material to keep it in good order. The scriptures indicate that Jona, the Father of Andrew and Peter, had some kind of partnership with Zebedee (Luke 5:7-10). Probably because of their Father’s profitable business, James and John never knew poverty till they shared it with Jesus.
We can only wonder about his reaction to the decision of his two sons to leave the family business and follow Jesus. We are not told whether he was pleased or pained by their surrender of all to follow Jesus; maybe he did not share their faith, quite possibly he did. This one incident is the only time which Zebedee comes before us in the Scripture.
Salome, their mother, was a disciple of Jesus and one of the first to believe on Him. She was very happy that her two sons followed Jesus. As her two sons did she also gave up all things for Christ and followed Him. Salome was one of the women who followed Him and who ministered unto Jesus of her substance, and was standing at the cross with the others (Matthew 27:55-56).
She besought the Lord for big positions for her sons.
Matthew 20:20. Then came to him the mother of Zebedee's children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him.
21. And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom.
Contrary to some who think this was a selfish request I feel that in this request it showed she thoroughly believed in His coming Kingship and she wanted her sons to share in it. What an immense spiritual advantage it is to be children of a Godly home.
Mothers – Fathers pray that your son, your daughter will do more than just make the team. Salome so loved their Master and Lord that she stayed at the cross and helped to carry His body to burial. What a strong Christian Mother James and John had.
A new day dawned in the lives of these two fishermen of Bethsaida that day in early spring when Jesus gave them the invitation to follow Him and He would make them fishers of men. Ten to fifteen years were to pass before the flash of the sword ended the history of the first Apostle who sealed the Gospel in his own blood.
Acts 12:2. “And he (Herode) killed James the brother of John with the sword.” (One sentence tells the story)
But John alone occupied the innermost circle. He cherished the mere thought of it, and used the phrase, “The disciple whom Jesus loved,” five times to describe the relationship. Some men have qualities which causes them to gravitate to the forefront. James and John both seemed to posses such qualities. I will call this quality zeal, an all consuming zeal, a passion for their Master that must have vibrated in their voice.
Luke 9:49. And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us.
And when one city did not welcome Jesus, James and John were outraged.
Luke 9:54. And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?
John, probably the youngest among the disciples, was to serve His Lord almost into the next century – A.D. 95? John was probable the only Apostle to die a natural death although he went through great persecution. (Acts 5:40 – Revelation 1:9)
Of the Apostles, Peter, James and John occupied the inner circle. They were chosen to accompany our Lord on many occasions while the nine others were left behind, when Jairus was very sick, on the Mount Transfiguration, and into Gethsemane.
It seemed as though a fire burned within them. Paul had the same zeal. Jesus did not want to extinguish the fire but to gain control of the energy which it created.
Matthew 4:20. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.
There is an Old Testament character which reminds me of James and John his name is Jehu.
2 Kings 10:16. And he said, Come with me, and see my zeal for the LORD. So they made him ride in his chariot.
Jehu drove as no man of that day drove.--- Towards Jezreel.
2 Kings 9:20. And the watchman told, saying, He came even unto them, and cometh not again: and the driving is like the driving of Jehu the son of Nimshi; for he driveth furiously.
Then Jehu uprooted the house of Ahab, and swept the worshipers of Baal from the land. In like manner James and John may have used their thunderous voices to help reform Israel. Jesus surnamed them Bo-an-er-ges or Sons of Thunder.
Jesus allowed a year to pass before he permitted James and John to pass from Discipleship to Apostleship. The sons of Thunder had to learn that the higher the calling the harder the discipline fitting one for it, Jesus was more concerned about qualification.
Apostles are not born but made. Too often men covet an office for which they are not prepared for simply because they skipped their apprenticeship or the years of preparation. So James and John followed, served, learned and became a workman who had no need to be ashamed.
So as they graduated to Apostleship Jesus surnamed them ‘Bo-an-er-ges’ or ‘Sons of Thunder.’ Scholars seem to differ as to the true meaning of this title. We will ask ourselves a few questions concerning it.
1. Was such a strange name a record of their past lives?
2. As Fishermen had these brothers, being hot, impulsive men, given way to sudden outbursts of passion? Showed their emotion?
3. Had they indulged in words that were too strong either for their own thoughts or the occasion which called them forth?
4. Did such a new name or nickname reveal that they had been men of a fiery impetuous disposition?
‘Bo-an-er-ges,’ our King Version of the New Testament gives us the Syrian meaning of the word “Sons of Thunder.” The Hebrew meaning of it is “Sons of Tumult” In our language the word tumult means a,
Was it not better to flame out in righteous wrath as they did, than witness insult done to their Lord without a quiver or pang? May God save the Church today from Laodicean indifference! The world today needs “The voice of one crying in the wilderness.”
Where are the Elijah’s today who tear down the altars of Baal? Cut down the groves and are intolerant of evil. This lets us know that James and John had an all consuming zeal in the way they followed the Lord. I feel that this was a natural trait which they carried over into their walk with the Lord. They had been in Jerusalem when Jesus drove the money changers and those who sold oxen and sheep from the Temple and over threw the tables and poured out the money.
It was John who left us the Old Testament scripture concerning Him on this occasion. John 2:17. And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.
Jesus did not want to extinguish the fire which burned within them but to gain control of the energy which it created. He wanted to make them pro-claimers of righteousness. My! How I would have loved to have heard James and John preach, “Sons of thunder, tumult, commotion, disturbance, agitation, and turbulence.”
We need an Amos who spoke out “against the transgressions of my people, saith the Lord.”
Amos 7:12. “ Also Amaziah said unto Amos, O thou seer, go, flee thee away into the land of Judah, and there eat bread, and prophesy there:
13. But prophesy not again any more at Bethel: for it is the king's chapel, and it is the king's court.
14. Then answered Amos, and said to Amaziah, I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet's son; but I was an herdman, and a gatherer of sycomore fruit:
15. And the LORD took me as I followed the flock, and the LORD said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel.
16. Now therefore hear thou the word of the LORD: Thou sayest, Prophesy not against Israel, and drop not thy word against the house of Isaac.”
John the Baptist spoke out against evil – Repent. Jesus Himself was intolerant of the activities of those in the temple –Repent. Paul was no fence- straddler – Repent.
‘Bo – an – er – ges Sons of Thunder,’ I don’t feel that Jesus gave them this name as a derogatory title, not to belittle them. I feel it was intended as a title of honor, although it was never mentioned again.
John the Apostle of Love, a title which he so richly deserves, but John in his writings lived up to the title which Jesus gave to him. He was intolerant of those who said they were Christians and walked in darkness.
1 John 1:6. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:
Intolerant of those who love the world.
1 John 2:15. Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
He spoke out strongly against Anti-Christ.
1 John 2:22. Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.
We constantly hear the thunder roll and the lightening flash in the book of Revelations.
Revelation 4:5. And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.
There we see the nations fall and the ungodly are consumed in a lake of fire and brimstone
We are continually made aware of the struggle of good against evil until we see victory in the battle of Armageddon.
Revelation 16:16. And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.
John tells about the praise of 100,000,000 Angels as they gather around the throne.
Revelation 5:11. And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands;
How about the sounds of 144,000 as they were inducted into the Hall of Fame!
Revelation 7:4. And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.
Or the voices of the untold millions who had their robes washed in the blood of the Lamb.
Revelation 7:9. After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;
And the sound of the trumpet which was so loud as to wake up the dead, Yes, there is a place for the Sons of Thunder. Yet cannot we see the change which takes place in their lives under the Hand of the Master.
2d. John on Patmos:
Moses was eighty years old when the call came to do the greatest work of his life. John the last surviving witness to the life, death, and resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ was over ninety when he was sent to labor in the mines. History tells us that men worked chained to their barrows. No wonder He could write “Your brother and companion in tribulation.”
Revelation 1:9. “I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.”
Such an old man needed loving care but in Patmos there was no one to watch over him. What hardship John suffered we are not told. Are we not tempted to ask why God allowed His most faithful to reach the age when activity had passed and only the dregs of life seem to remain, to endure the mailed fist of the Roman Empire?
Was it to prove once again that His strength is made perfect through human weakness? John now over 90 even maybe 95 was in Patmos, but he found himself “In the Spirit on the Lord’s Day” and received the vision.
Patmos was surrounded by the sea, making escape impossible, but John while in the third Heaven looked around and “There was no more sea.” John saw till the Church was victor over the Roman Empire. Yes he saw till the Church was victor over all the foes who would come.
He saw so far into the future when Kingdoms would crumble and Kings would bow to the one he knew who was crowned King of kings and Lord of Lords. He saw till heaven fell and earth went up in smoke. Then he saw a city coming down from God.
2e. James Beheaded By Herod:
James on the one hand changes slowly into a man of peace and silence. As far as the Biblical record he never utters another word which is recorded. Although his prominence is an assured fact as when some fourteen years after the Lord’s resurrection – Herod Aggrippa “stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the Church” (Acts 12:1).
He did not arrest the least among the members only the most conspicuous, he struck at two leaders, James and Peter. James being the first, Our Lord had ask Him.
Matthew 20:22. But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able.
23. And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.
Herod killed James:
Acts 12:2. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword.
What an example James must have been for the early Church. For when the time came for him to drink the cup, he drained it to the dregs. And without hesitation faced the Baptism which Jesus spoke of to him. We can only wonder why in all his writings that John never mentions his brother.
2f. Jesus Entrusts His Mother To John:
Now we want to turn our attention back to John who was the last friend Jesus spoke to before He died. To him Jesus put the burden of caring for His Mother. John alone tells us of this most touching incident.
John 19:26. When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son!
27. Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.
Then saith He to the Disciple. Behold Thy Mother! From that hour that Disciple took her unto His own Home.” Jesus was concerned about His Mother and the future which lay ahead for her. He commits her to the care of John whom He Himself loved beyond others.
We cannot but wonder why Mary was not placed into the care of her other sons James, Joses, Simon and Judas, she also had two, or more, daughters. Was it because of their attitude towards Jesus? For at that time “His brothers did not believe in Him” (John 7:5).
Mary would have been at least 50 years old and the mother of at least 7 children and had suffered great mental agony over the rejection and cruel death of her first son. Her life had not been easy and I’m sure she needed special love and care. Jesus looked down the ages when another son, James, would also suffer a cruel death by being pushed from the Temple wall and then being beaten to death with a club.
We say that “Blood is thicker than water.” But this act of Jesus in giving the care of Mary over to John proves that “Spirit is thicker than blood.” The truest bond between men is to be found together by the Spirit of Jesus. I feel that this act of kindness towards Mary and the trust He placed in John. This gave the opportunity for John to develop his own character.
Jesus loved His Mother and He wanted the best of care for her. He trusted John to give that care above all others on earth. He trusted the relationship as Mother and Son. How many times as an act of kindness towards someone has our Lord given to us the opportunity to develop a noble character of our own, “Do good to all men”
Galatians 6:10. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.
John took the Mother of Jesus unto his own home.”
John 19:27. Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.
Never mind the added expense, never mind the toil and worry of day by day living. Never mind the burden of moving her with them from place to place. She most probably died in Ephesus. John could never forget this mark of love received from his dying Master. The burden was put upon the right shoulders. “John was the Apostle of Love”
2g. John, The Apostle Who Personified Love:
1 John 4:7. “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
8. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.”
The purpose, for which Jesus had in mind, as He chose the 12 Apostles, was that of a transferred Ministry. He knew that he was not to remain in the world to personally evangelize it. This task was to fall into the hands of His followers.
Mark 3:14. “And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach,”
During the three years that the Apostles walked with our Lord they not only learned His Words but they learned of His Spirit, His Personality, His Nature, His Disposition, and His Character. Jesus wanted to impart to them as much of His nature or disposition as it was possible for them to absorb.
I think we could safely say that of the twelve John more closely portrayed our Lord. Jesus entrusted His own Mother into the care of John the Disciple whom He loved. I feel that John looked upon this as an opportunity given to Him by His dying Lord of manifesting His love on His behalf. I feel like this act of love towards Mary and the Act of trust Jesus placed in John is the seed which germinated and grew to inundate his entire being.
John the Apostle who personified love, more than eighty times, John uses the word in his writings. In his Gospel and Epistles, he gave to the world a definition of love not to be found in any writings of any author, religious or secular.
Another key word in John’s writings is “witness” used over thirty times. “Records” used thirteen times “Testify” Testimony” twenty five times. John did not write his Gospel until near the close of the first century. And by that time many had written accounts of the Life of Christ. (Luke 1:1)
Many of these accounts were inaccurate; in fact John speaks of the false prophets which were very prevalent in his day. So John was very careful to back up what he was writing by giving proof by the witnesses he quoted.
John in His Gospel sets forth no fewer than seven forms of reliable evidence of the facts of Christianity.
1. The witness of John the Baptist --- John 5:32
2. The witness of scripture --- John 5:39
3. The witness of the Father --- John 5:37
4. The witness of Christ Himself – John 8:14
5. The witness of Christ’s miracles – John 5:36
6. The witness of the Holy Spirit – John 15:26
7. The witness of the Disciples – John 15:27
Finally John says “I was an eye witness.”
1 John 1:1. That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;
We do not intend to give an exposition of each of John’s written works, yet a brief description of each may be in order. The formally educated men of John’s generation banded him as being “unlearned and ignorant.
Acts 4:13. Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.
His vocabulary was limited, compared to the other evangelists and especially Paul. But no better use of what he has. One great German scholar made this statement concerning John’s writing, “If the author has only a few terms in his vocabulary these terms maybe compared to pieces of gold with which great lords make payment.”
The first fourteen verses of St. John are a master piece on The Godhead of Christ. The words so simple, that any young grade school child knows the meaning of each, yet so eloquent as to confound the wise.
Prophets in the Old Testament were called seers.
1 Samuel 9:9. (Beforetime in Israel, when a man went to enquire of God, thus he spake, Come, and let us go to the seer: for he that is now called a Prophet was beforetime called a Seer.)
A Seer is a person credited with extraordinary moral and spiritual insight. As a Seer John has no equal, evidence of this power of perception was evident before the ascension of Jesus. John was the first to see the fact of the resurrection and as a witness he described all he saw, even the position of the clothing left behind. Then he was the first to discern his Lord’s person on the lakeside, then as an accurate witness described all he saw.
John Saw The Future:
But John’s quality as a seer is at its best in the Revelation. In fact no one ever saw so much or saw so far into the future, and what he saw he wrote in a book. Basil, one of the great Church Fathers of the third century says, “Among all the Evangelical Preachers, there are none like John, The son of Thunder for the sublimeness of speech, and the height of his discourses beyond any man’s capacity to duly reach and comprehend.”
Alexander Whyte in his book “Bible Characters” say of John, “John, fisherman’s son and all, was born with one of the finest mind that has ever been bestowed by God’s goodness upon any of the sons of men.”
Running through his Gospel, for instance, we have exactness of description, a representation of the whole scene as if it were photographed upon his memory. John remembers the days and hours which the events occurred for he was present. Writing from his memory he knew what happened at the tenth hour, the seventh, and the sixth hour. John wrote about fewer than twenty days of Jesus’ life.
Some men conquer with sword and their deeds die with them. But John has proved that the pen is mightier than the sword. John has conquered the hearts of more people than Alexander the Great, Napoleon Bonaparte, Tamerlane and even more than all the Roman Caesars.
It was John who wrote what Jesus said.
John 12:32. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.
Most men have accomplished most of their achievements by the latter midlife. They are looking toward retirement and an easy life. Most employers are looking for younger people to take your place. They notice the lines in your face, gray in your hair, the drop in your shoulders and don’t take into consideration your years of contribution.
But there are some who startle the youthful minded. One season Nolan Ryan became the oldest pitcher (by 11 years) to strike out 300 batters in a season. He also struck out Rickey Henderson of the Oakland A’S with a 96 mile per hour fast ball for 5000th life - time strike – outs.
George Blanda was released by the Huston Oilers at the age of 39. Through – washed out –too old, but this was not so. He was picked up by the Oakland Raiders, In 1970 he won or tied five straight games with his last second kicks or passes he became a hero and the oldest player ever at age 48.
Twenty two years after Arnold Palmer won a major golf tournament he played in a tournament in Maryland. 182 yard, number 3 hole He used a five iron, the ball hit the pin and dropped in the cup, hole in one and it was every golfers dream. Next day same hole, same club, same score. And 22 years over the hill, Colonel Sanders made his millions after the age of 72.
What John Heard:
Revelation 1:9. “I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.
10. I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet,
11. Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, ..”
What John Saw:
Revelation 4:1. “After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.
2. And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.”
Revelation 21:1. “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.”
The Last Surviving Witness to life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ was over ninety years old when he was sent to labor in the mines of Patmos (salt mines, marble quarries). History tells us that men were chained to their barrows—a cruel age. Many were chained together with a companion by leg irons which only death could unloose—only to be chained to someone else.
No wonder He could write “Your brother and companion in tribulation and in the Kingdom and Patience of Jesus Christ.,” What hardship John must have suffered, but of this his pen is silent?” Are we not tempted to ask why God allowed His most faithful servant to reach the age when activity had passed and only the dregs of life seem to remain, to endure the mailed fist of the Roman Empire?
I came up with three reasons:
1. The First Reason was it to prove once again that His strength is made perfect through Human weakness?
2 Corinthians 12:9. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Nowhere in the annals of man’s history is this point brought to perfection more than in the Book of Job. “My Strength is made perfect in weakness.”
2. The second reason God allows some of His servant to suffer greater hardships is because suffering opens up avenues by which God can speak to the human heart. He opens our eyes, so we can see and understand the other world, Angels all around. Search the pages of God’s Holy Word and study the history of the Church. Read who it was, that God revealed the inner secrets of His heart.
It was not to those who were sitting in the lap of luxury, not those who were ease in Zion. First 40 years of Moses’ life was spent in luxury, the next 40 years in the desert of Midian.
Exodus 3:1. Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb.
2. And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.
Ezekiel 1:1. Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, in the fifth day of the month, as I was among the captives by the river of Chebar, that the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God.
John Bunyan was confined to prison from 1660 till 1672, with a short intermission, his Father was a Tinker. During this imprisonment he wrote many books (60) including Pilgrims Progress.
2 Corinthians 12:1-10. Paul tells us that visions and revelations come during a time of great stress and trials. He prayed that God would take the trial away but God said unto him, “My grace is sufficient for thee, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”
So, as I was saying, God sometimes allowed some of His servants to go to the limits of human or should I say physical endurance. Then to those who do not relinquish their hope, lost everything but hope.
Romans 4:18. Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be.
Hebrews 6:19. “Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast,………”
Even to those who hold on, God comes miraculously. John was over 90 years old, maybe even 95 when exiled to Patmos, a small volcanic island in the Aegean Sea which was almost devoid of vegetation in the first century. Patmos was completely surrounded by the sea making escape impossible.
But in spite of all the hardships, the cruelties, the pain, the suffering, John says,
Revelation 1:10. I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet,
Revelation 4:1. After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.
The Third reason that God allows His saints to suffer tribulations is in answer to prayer. But you say that no one in his right mind would ask God for tribulation. We do not pray for crosses if crosses would let us alone, we would let them alone.
John’s tribulations came in answer to a petition he made more than 60 years before, Remember James and John had come to Jesus asking that they may sit on each side of His Throne in His Kingdom.
Jesus said to them
Matthew 20:22. But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able.
Jesus is saying that the way to the throne room, the palm bearers in Glory, are those who come through great tribulation. Those who are most blessed in the Kingdom are those who drink of His Cup of Suffering.
“WE are able,” Had they only known what the meaning of Jesus’ words, the two brothers might well have been a little more hesitant to answer Him. Jesus is saying that the elect are not the happy and the prosperous, but the toilers and the sufferers. “Ye know not what ye ask, -- Are ye able?
We ask to be made holy, but do we know what doubts, temptations and sore trials of all kinds go to the making of great saints? We ask for patience, but do we really know what brings patience? “Tribulation worketh patience.”
Some things come only by fasting and prayer; do we know what we ask?
“I heard…” “Come up hither,…” What you hear write in a book…. John saw till the church was victory over the Roman Empire. Yes he saw till the church was victor over all the foes who would come.
He saw until Kingdoms would crumble and Kings would bow to the one who was crowned King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He saw till Satan was bound and cast into the bottomless pit. He saw the Judgment and those who were turned away He saw a new Heaven and a New Earth.
Revelation 21:2. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
“A river of water of life” “The tree of life,…” And finally he saw the face of Jesus.
Revelation 22:4. And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads.
History tells us that John was released from Patmos A.D. 95? Then returned to Ephesus where he wrote five books of the Bible. It was at the great age that John did his greatest work for his Lord.
Not to take away from his work in the Church at Jerusalem and as an Apostle or planter as the word means. He did a great work among the 7 Churches of Asia. Yet his written works far surpass any other work he ever attempted.
It has been nineteen centuries since his death yet many today will hear him say, “My little children I write unto you to love one another.” His Gospel is a Gospel of conversations. Altogether there are 24 conversations held with 17 people. Some are brief, some are quite long. Andrew and John, Nathanael, Nicodemus and the woman at the well.
In the King James Bible John’s Gospel contains 879 verses, 419 of which contain words of our Lord, almost half the Gospel. Someone has called it “The Holy of Holies” John as an old, old man was led into the Church at Ephesus and someone would help him rise to his feet to give his testimony. “My Little Children, Love One Another.” In Ephesus John fell asleep and passed into the presence of His Master forever.
3. Jesus’ Farewell Address:
The subjects in John 14, 15, 16, and 17, concerns the future work of the Apostles, it’s nature, honors, hardships, and joys. They have a great work to do.
John 14 is spoken in the seclusion of the upper room where they had gathered to eat the Passover Supper. Jesus comforts their sorrowing hearts by telling them about His Father’s house, how big it is, and He is going to prepare them a room there, and then is coming again to take them into His father’s house.
But now the hour is growing late, the traitor would be coming soon (v. 30). So Jesus says, “Arise, let us go hence” (v. 31). “Push back your chairs and let us be going.” John 15, and 16, were spoken as they walked pausing only for the prayer of Chapter 17.
3a. The Vine And The Branches:
John 15:1. “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.”
The keynote of this chapter is verse 16, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.”
Jesus would have His chosen ones to understand that He expects more of them than that should lose heart when He has left the earth. They must in fact take His place, and be in His stead, and carry on His work—in His name and through His aid.
Jesus uses the allegory of the vine, the branches and the fruit to bring before His Apostles their responsibilities as Apostles of the faith. An allegory conveys moral truth. An allegory needs not an explanation as a parable does. Jesus uses several allegories in His ministry (sheep-fold, door, good-shepherd).
The main points of emphasis in this allegory are,
1. The vine = Jesus.
2. The Husbandman = God.
3. The Branches = the Apostles, the Church.
4. Fruit = Souls, Lost souls brought into the Kingdom of God, abundant and enduring.
Our Lord is saying to His disciples that His personal ministry was at an end, and it remained for the Branches to carry on the work to its natural fulfillment, and to bring forth a crop of fruit, in the shape of a Church of saved men and women believing in His name. Raise up a Church that should endure till the world’s end. If they failed to do this, His labor would be all in vain.
The training of the twelve has drawn to an end. Three and a half years they had followed, listened and watched.
John 15:1. I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
2. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
3. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.
4. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
5. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
6. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
7. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
8. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.
9. As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.
10. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.
11. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.
12. This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
13. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
14. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.
15. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.
16. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.
Fruit shall be abundant and enduring:
“I am the true vine…” That is the theme which is worked out by Jesus in great detail. Notice how quickly He hurries on at once to speak of fruit. Let us notice how the fruitless branches are chopped off while the fruitful ones are pruned that they may become still more productive.
This shows what, is upper most in the mind of Jesus, His heart’s desire is that His Disciples may be spiritually fruitful. What Jesus is saying “Ye are useless unless ye bear fruit.” The fruit He looks for is the spread of the Gospel and the ingathering of souls into the Kingdom of God.
Personal Holiness is not overlooked but is required as a means towards fruitfulness. The purging of the branch leads to increased fruitfulness.
“Now ye are clean through the Word which I have spoken unto you.”
3b. Conditions Of Fruitfulness:
A branch cannot bear fruit of itself so the conditions of fruitfulness is “Abide in me, and I in you”
The branch abides in the vine structurally or organically connected with the stem or vine. Also the vine abides in the branch through its sap, vitally, Two vital connections. The branch must be connected and the sap must be flowing to produce fruit. “You in me and I in you.”
It is possible for the branch to be connected to the vine and yet the sap not to be flowing. In this case the branch will wither and die while still attached to the vine. It will remain as fruitless as if it were broken off and lying on the ground. “Abide in me, and I in you.”
Now let us ask what do the two abidings mean? Some people have the tendency to run the two into one, and to make the distinction between them to mean very little. But Jesus said it, not once but twice, in successive verses 4 and 5, so I believe He emphasized this to let us know the importance of it.
First I don’t believe the two abidings are one and the same, “You in me, and I in you.”
First – “You In Me” The structural abiding or organic connections. Abide in the Doctrine of Jesus Christ, The Doctrine He taught, acknowledging Him as the source of Truth.
“Abide in Me,” means, hold and profess the truth I have spoken to you. The other abiding, “And I in You.” signifies the indwelling of the Spirit of Jesus in the heart of the believer.
They must abide in His doctrine; they must also have His spirit (The Holy Ghost) in them. They must not only have and hold fast the truth, but be filled with the truth. It is not enough to be orthodox in belief, there must be a spiritual life, spiritual vitality.
Ephesians 5:18. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;
2 Corinthians 3:6. Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.
Without the Spirit (sap) we may be likened unto a dead branch on a living tree, bleached, bark less, leafless and fruitless. Stretching out like a withered arm still clinging to the truck, dead limbs. Sometime a branch gets broken off while full of the sap. It will live for awhile. It does not wither at once, seeming to live on its own.
A branch cut off by pride or self will or some other unknown reason, still full of the sap maybe in full bloom of an experience with God. Foolishly imagining because, it does not wither at once that it can live and grow and bring to fruit the blossoms without the trunk or vine. “Without me, Ye can do nothing”
A dead branch on a tree was not always dead. It was produced by the vital force (sap) of the tree, and had some of the tree’s life in it. The doctrine of perseverance in Grace nowhere is taught more clearly than in these words of our Lord.
The responsibility of man for his own spiritual character cannot be too earnestly insisted on. Although the father, as the husbandman, wields the pruning knife the process of purging cannot be carried on without our consent and co operation. We must agree to it and we must help him clean us up.
Cares of life, love of the world, lusts of the flesh, passions and desires which inhibit Christian growth, these evils cannot be overcome unless our will and all our moral powers be brought to bear against them.
3c. Unfruitful Branches Are Cut Off:
Jesus speaks of the doom of the branch which beareth not fruit. “He taketh away.” The doom of the branch which will not abide in the vine, it leaves on its own, it will be thrown out of the vineyard to wither, and at last to be gathered, along with all its self willed brethren, into a heap and burned.
Jesus asks of them not only fruit but much fruit, Abundant and enduring. A Church that should endure till the world’s end, if they failed, men would say: God planted a vineyard which did not thrive. The vine produced branches which have borne no fruit or in plain talk, Jesus chose men who have done nothing. The whole burden rested upon eleven men.
Now it is distributed over millions, nevertheless there is great need for spiritually fruitful life in the Church. He can bear delay, but He cannot bear failure. He can wait patiently till the process of growth has passed through all its stages, bud, bloom and fruit.
He can put up with all the unsatisfactory qualities of immaturity, the sake of what they shall ripen into. But if they never ripen, if the children never become men, if the pupils never become teachers, “That your joy maybe full.” Joy in the highest sense is one of ripe fruits of the Holy Spirit and the reward of perseverance and fidelity.
4. The Great Commission:
Luke 24:50. “And he led them out as far as to Bethany,..”
Acts 1:12. “Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet,”
Redemption is now complete, and the Conqueror of Death Hell and the Grave is about to ascend to His heavenly throne. The Mount of Olives is again selected as the scene of this closing, hallowed memory of His temporary residency on earth.
From this Mount can be seen the little village of Bethany, and a magnificent view of the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea, and a host of the many villages so familiar to the eye of our Lord that He had passed through on His way to Calvary. It is fitting that our Lord should choose such a setting for His ascension.
There are places so dear to all of us; some are sacred, like the place where we found the Lord, or where we were baptized—these are the places we would like to visit before we leave this world. It may have been some such feeling and association which prompted the Lord (yes I feel He also had human sensibilities) to select it.
The Mount of Olives and the little Garden at the foot where He was accustomed to spend so many nights in prayer, the place of His greatest agony, Gethsemane, so we find Him leading the little group to this sacred place for His final words of commission, of comfort, of hope, and promise.
It was their final week together. The week began in Galilee when Jesus met with the disciples and gave them ‘The Great Commission.’
Matthew 28:16. “Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them.
17. And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted.
18. And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
19. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
20. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
Jesus had finished His Training Of The Twelve and very soon He would be leaving them to the task He had called them to. At this time also He gave them a wonderful gift, the gift of understanding the things He had taught them.
Luke 24:45. “Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,”
What a wonderful gift. We all need to pray that He will give us the gift of understanding of the scriptures. Without this gift, which only God can give, the Bible remains a mystery to us. Only God can reveal His Word to us.
He also told them that they would have to go alone, “and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” No greater task was ever entrusted to men than to “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15.)
Let us read the results of this commission, “And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following” (Mark 16:20).
5. Parting Blessing:
Luke 24:50. “And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them.
51. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.”
After receiving The Great Commission and further understanding of Him and His words, they started the long walk back to the Mount of Olives where he would take His departure from them. I’m sure on the way they visited many of the towns and villages where His ministry took place, stopping along the way at places that welcomed Him during His ministry. No doubt it was like it had always been with the disciples the last few years, not realizing it would be their last journey with Him.
Paul informs us that He was seen after His resurrection by over 500 brethren at once (1 Corinthians 15:6), and Paul also told King Agrippa that “these things were not done in a corner” (Acts 26:26), in other words all that took place was open and not done in secrecy.
Just maybe, when He came to Bethany Martha prepared His last earthly meal, just like she always had, and Mary and Lazarus sat and had fellowship with Him. It is very possible that they, and Salome and Mary Magdalene, and Jesus’ own mother, was in the company which followed him on to the Mount of Olives and witnessed His ascension, although she is not mention being in the company until the Day Of Pentecost (Acts 1:14). It might be carrying it too far, but I would believe His brothers and sisters were also there. We know that there were 120 present at Pentecost (Acts 1:13-15).
Two other names come to our attention,
Acts 1:21. “Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us,
22. Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.
23. And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias.”
This is the only mention of these two men who had been with them all during the time Jesus had walked with them the last three years. One could wonder how many more followed that never had their names recorded, only in the Lamb’s Book Of Life. How I wish we had a written record of every day and every hour of our Lord’s life and every one of those who were with Him during His life on earth.
What a thrill it would have been for all of them to see His exaltation, Him being raised to heaven in glory, after witnessing such degrading things which were done to Him.
“And he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.”
And now, as the Divine Redeemer is about to take farewell of the world, where in a cloak of flesh He had sojourned for thirty-and-three years, how does He leave it. It was a world into which He had come as a babe and whose mother had wrapped Him is swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger. It was a world that had disowned Him, scorned Him, and had slain Him.
Memories of unreturned love abounded, even those who warm hearts at His side (trusted friends) had, in the hour of peril, proved faithless. There seemed to be nowhere in this world where he was really welcomed. So He turned His eyes upward in that blue expanse above.
Might we have wondered, when the songs of welcome home were being prepared, and a hundred million angels were standing at the portals of heaven to welcome Him back home into His Father’s house, had He resolved, once and forever, to forget an ungrateful earth, simply to obliterate from His thoughts the dark story of its forgetfulness and sin, and that all His thoughts and joys would now be centered on that blessed world where no sin can enter—where no dark experience of sorrow can interrupt a continual Sabbath of endless communion?
But no, how different! His parting act, as the bereaved men of Galilee strain their eyes and ears, He lifts up His hands and begins a final farewell, and it is a blessing from His lips that catch their attention. They remember Him as with uplifted hands, He breathes on these men who had been with Him, followed Him, and loved Him, and to these His blessings flowed. They realize that though His visible presence was not seen, yet His benediction and blessing are still following them, and that no distance, no space, no time, can ever separate them from His love.
“While he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.” The thing we want to look at in the Ascension is He ascended in His glorified body, carrying with Him glorified humanity. The same Savior who broke bread with them at their communion feast—who met with them and ate with them on the shores of Trberias, who walked with them that day up the steeps of Olivet, yes the “man Christ Jesus” had ascended in a bodily shape.
Would it have surprised them if He had said, “A body was prepared me” to come to this world, which I gave to redeem it. “A body I needed to house My divine nature, but now that work is finished, I leave behind that body, take it and bury it.’ “Summon the Mary’s to prepare it for burial somewhere, (like Moses on Mount Nebo).
But no; with a body (glorified indeed, but in a visible form like theirs) He ascends. Bidding defiance to one of earth’s most stable and unalterable physical laws (gravity), showing He was Lord of matter as well as of spirit—the body rises without wings or chariot wheels up into its shining cloud, and is received out of their sight.
6. Promise Of Return:
Acts 1:10. “And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel;
11. Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”
When in amazement, their hearts wavering, swelling with fear, and hope, and joy, the disciples saw the last speck vanish in the blue distance, “lo! two men in white robes” (angels) stood with them on Olivet, which spoke words of assurance to them that “this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”
“This same Jesus!” He has entered wearing that ‘glorified humanity;’ and in the ages to come, when the number of His elect are completed, in the ‘glorified humanity’ he will come again. In ‘glorified humanity’ He is now seated on the throne. In ‘glorified humanity’ He has gone to prepare a place for His people. And “God has appointed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness, by that (glorified) ‘MAN’ whom He hath ordained (Acts 17:31).
What a joyful assurance. We have followed our Redeemer through His calling and training of the twelve in three different section of this study of The Men Jesus Chose and to think that “that same Jesus,” wearing that same ‘glorified’ body will one day appear as He went away.
7. The Gospel To The Whole World:
Luke 24:52. “And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy:”
When the disciples had to meander their way back to Jerusalem one would think that surely no son ever returned from laying an honored parent in the grave could be more sad and lonely. Now to tread this world alone, to return to the old home in loneliness. ‘Ichabed’, “the glory is departed.” Shall they abandon themselves in despair?
Does Matthew say, ‘I shall return to my custom-house and my illicit gains? Does Peter say. ‘I shall return again to my fishing-business on the lake of Galilee’? Does Nathaniel say, “I shall return again under the my fig-tree, and, spreading sackcloth under me, bewail my absent Lord’? Does Thomas say, I can no longet reach thither my hand and thrust it into His side; I must lapse into my former state, and be faithless and unbelieving as before’?
Does Andrew go smiting his breast, asking in vain his old question, “Where dwellest thou?’ while the reply is no more returned, “Come and see”?
Farewells are sorrowful. We can understand Jesus’ birth to be a joyful event. We can understand His second coming to be a “blessed hope.” But to leave His Church even before it is born, and in loneliness, without His personal presence, it seems sad.
We expect to see them, with tear dimmed eyes and faltering steps, descending Olivet and muttering the one note of overmastering sorrow, “They have taken away our Lord, and we know not where they have laid Him.
But No, we read that they “returned to Jerusalem with great joy:” We look for tears, and we hear songs; we look for sackcloth, and lo, they are clothed with gladness. We look for mourning about broken dreams, and ruin of their lives. But they are continually in the temple praising and worshiping, and blessing God. The ascension of Jesus was a joyful event because it attested the full completion of His mediatory work. And then His own entrance into the pearly gates assured us of entrance as well.
The gates of heaven closed to the straining eyes of those gathered there on Olivet. As they looked wistfully towards the spot where the vanishing body was last seen, they remembered some of His last words to them. “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).
‘Go ye men of Galilee, on your glorious errand to the ends of the earth; and as ye proclaim that gospel of peace and joy to the weary and heavy laden, to the poor, the broken-hearted, the storm-tossed—tell the this glorious fact—ye have seen it with your eyes, heard it with your ears, that “Jesus Christ came into this world to save sinners.”
We hope you enjoyed this Study #3 on The Men Jesus Chose and we want you to read and study the other studies on our web site.
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By, James & Mary Lee Thornton