Jesus Calms The Storm

What does Jesus’s power over the weather tell us about who He is?

As we move through Matthew, let’s keep in mind why we’re looking at who Jesus is in relation to eschatology. It’s because if Jesus is the King who is coming, that has immediate ramifications for eschatology. If Jesus is God incarnate, it means something about who He is and what was and is going on in His work. There are real implications.

In Matthew 8, Jesus is asleep in a boat while the disciples panic over a storm. First off, I find it amazing that Jesus is so calm in all of this that He just simply sleeps right through it. Jesus is confident enough in His disciples that He trusts them to handle the sea. Too bad these men, many experienced with the sea, don’t have such trust in Jesus.

Note that the disciples are in a panic, but there is no sense of urgency or panic on the part of Jesus. Some of you might think that if such a violent storm is going on at sea, isn’t it natural to panic? Perhaps, but if these people are to believe who Jesus is, they have to believe He came for a mission and God is going to let Him do that mission. He is in charge of the story even if it seems to be going off-script.

Jesus is in charge throughout this whole course of events. He is so much in charge that He can issue a command to nature itself. The disciples could have thought of Psalm 107:29 or Psalm 65:7 which talk about God calming the storms immediately. This leads to the question of who is Jesus.

Which is what is fascinating about Jesus. Still 2,000 years later, we are debating who He was and is. (And no silly mythicists, we are not debating if He even existed because that debate never even started anyway) It could be tempting for some to deny a miracle story like this because miracles never happen, but that needs to be shown first or have an argument given for beyond Hume’s question-begging one.

If Jesus is who He said He was, then that has huge ramifications indeed. Many of us like to go to our favorite verses, but really one of the most powerful arguments is the overall life of Christ. It’s not a shock that high Christology came right out of the gates.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Give In Secret

How should we give? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In Jesus’s day, people wanted to get honor. To some extent, we all want this today, but honor is not the driving force that it used to be. In some ways, I think it is, but we don’t recognize it. If you’re on social media, you want your posts to have likes and shares. You want to have followers on Twitter. You want subscribers and views on YouTube. High school can often just be a big popularity contest and truly, high school never ends.

Jesus talks about the proper method of giving though.

“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Something that can irk me is when a company makes an advertisement and in the advertisement, they talk about how much they are giving to help something, which has been something common during this pandemic. Even more bothersome to me is when the giving is used to encourage people to get the product. “If you give to us, we will donate so much to charity.”

It’s worth pointing out though that Jesus doesn’t condemn giving for the sake of honor. However, He points us to the true honor. It is the honor of the Father that we are seeking. God sees what we do in secret and He will reward us for what we do. We often think that seeking something for yourself is bad. It’s not. It’s how and why. Jesus tells us to seek the honor that comes from God.

This isn’t to say that your giving can never be shown publicly. It can be. Sometimes it’s unavoidable. However, the goal of our giving should not be so people will just think how awesome we are. It should be for the kingdom of God and the good of the other person.

In Jesus’s day, the Pharisees would publicly proclaim when they were given. They did get their reward in full right there. They got the praise of people around them. Jesus wants us to seek the higher praise. This is the praise of God. The praise of people is temporary and will fade. The praise of God lasts forever.

And really, that’s something we need to keep in mind. We focus so much on temporary things and lose sight of eternal things. We will be around God forever and forever experience how we dealt with Him. If we lived our lives in love of Him, we will live our eternity that way. If we lived lives of hating Him, we will live forever that way too. Each of us is building an eternal dwelling in some sense and when we get to eternity, we will have the dwelling we built.

Build well.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

What about oaths?

Should we take oaths? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

As we continue looking at the Kingdom of King Jesus, we get to a lesson on oaths.

33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ 34 But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”

Now this is not saying no oaths absolutely. This is talking about flippant oaths. Think about how many times you have made a deal with God as an example. Does it really help out? Also, how many times do you keep your oath?

Everyone in the ancient world took oaths seriously. If you broke an oath, it was inviting judgment from the deity on you. Flippant oath taking is not taking the deity seriously enough.

What Jesus is really saying is to be a person of your word. Make it your goal to have it be that if you say yes or no to something, you are so trustworthy that that’s all people need to hear. You don’t need to do something big and drastic. You can just state what your intention is and what your desire is and people will be willing to give you the benefit of the doubt.

This is one reason also I am very hesitant with making promises. Promises are made today often to be broken. If you promise something, you had better be serious about it.

If your word isn’t reliable, people have no reason to trust you. For evangelism, they definitely have no reason to trust you about Jesus. This is similar to what I have said about sharing things like conspiracy theories. You hurt your witness tremendously. Break your word consistently enough and people have no reason to trust you.

Sometimes, you will have to take an oath such as in court and making a marriage vow and it has to be serious. If you think an oath is necessary, treat it seriously. This is about your reputation.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Divorce in the Sermon

What did Jesus say in the Sermon about divorce? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Let’s just jump into the verses in question.

31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this comes after talking about lust. That would mean Jesus is saying that it doesn’t matter if your eye catches someone more appealing. You have a covenant that you are already in and you are to honor that covenant.

Let’s state the matter seriously. Divorce is an evil. Period.

“But Nick! You don’t understand! My wife was cheating on me!” “You don’t get it! My husband was abusive!” “The children were in danger from my spouse!”

Yes. All of those can be true and in a number of cases, divorce can even be sadly advisable, but it is still an evil. Why? Because it’s tragic that a case where two people vowed to love and remain faithful to one another until death was shattered because someone decided to break the covenant.

This is not to say then that everyone who has divorced is guilty of an evil. My parents were both divorced before their current marriage because both of their spouses were unfaithful. It’s good today that they’re together, but it’s tragic that both of them married spouses who broke their covenant.

That’s also something important to stress today. Marriage is a covenant. It doesn’t depend on your feelings or emotions at the time. If it did, marriages would shatter constantly. (Maybe that is why they are so much as many people do just that.) Marriage is a promise. How you treat it says less about your spouse really and more about you.

Also, keep in mind that not all of the above scenarios necessitate a divorce. Suppose there is a husband who is cheating on his wife. Some marriages can bounce back and be strong even after an affair. It does require therapy and repentance, but it is doable.

If you have children in a marriage, they will be the ones who suffer the most from divorce. Not too long ago I read a book called Primal Loss. It’s from a Catholic perspective and all the participants are Catholic, but all of them were still deeply hurt by what happened with their parents and it doesn’t matter what age they’re at.

Marriage is a covenant that requires work. In Jesus’s day, one school of thought said a husband could divorce his wife for anything displeasing, such as hypothetically if she burnt his toast in the morning. Jesus ups the ante tremendously and says marriage is for life entirely. Paul ups the ante and says that even if a believer is married to an unbeliever, if they are not being in danger, they should stay with the marriage. They may convert their spouse after all.

Fortunately, Shaunti Feldhahn has done some great research showing the idea that divorce is as common among Christians as non-Christians is a great myth. However, it is still way too common. All of us need to do what we can to honor marriage. That includes singles as well, such as saying if you’re not marrying that you’re going to remain celibate.

The rest of us, remember we made a vow before God and man. Let’s keep it. God will hold us all accountable after all for how we treated our spouses.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Salt and Light

What does it mean to be salt and light? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

As we continue looking at the sermon, we come to the account of salt and light. Both of these are things that stand out and enhance something. I still remember as a kid going to McDonald’s and getting the fries and going crazy with salt on them. It’s still a great treat to have. As for light, in our age we have more access to light in a way. After all, how many of us when we’re walking through our homes at night or outside at night pull out our phones and turn on the flashlight feature?

If a ship is out at sea and the crew is wondering where to go at night, a lighthouse can be seen from 20 miles away if its light is on. That can give great hope to those out at sea. Just a sliver of light can make a difference. Light is a way of representing hope.

And Jesus tells us we’re to be like salt and light.

Unless you have some dietary restriction, most of us like some salt on certain foods of ours. If I fix fillets at night, I put salt and pepper on them. Fix a pizza? Not at all. French fries without salt though seems unthinkable.

Light is specifically meant to be seen. That’s why we’re compared to a city on a hill. Many of us think that we should hide our good deeds. Now, we certainly shouldn’t do something to be seen, but that doesn’t mean we hide away and avoid doing good deeds. We need to do them and then in line with a proper interpretation of 1 Peter 3:15, explain that we do good deeds because of the example of Jesus.

Notably, Jesus says to do these things so people will praise your Father in Heaven. Those who do this are children of God. They are part of the Kingdom. They have not earned it. They have instead demonstrated where their loyalty lies.

Jesus’s call for citizens of the Kingdom is to go out and do something. Be an enhancement in society, as salt is on food. Be a beacon of hope, as light is in the world. Make the world a better place by your devotion to Christ. With all that is going on now, and as I type this there are riots going on over George Floyd, we need that indeed.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Persecution

What does it mean to be persecuted? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I wanted to save these verses in the Sermon for further looking. In these, Jesus talks about persecution, so let’s look at them.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

So many Christians I meet today too quickly throw out the word persecution. The insulting and saying things falsely can fit today, but persecution is something much more severe. Much of what we call persecution today does a disservice to those people who really are persecuted.

There are many countries today in the world where becoming a Christian is putting your life on the line. Think of places like Muslim countries or countries with a bent towards Communism, like China. If you become a Christian in those countries, you are putting a big bullseye on you.

Persecution is not someone making fun of you for being a Christian alone. That is not sufficient. It’s also not persecution if people don’t like you for other reasons, such as the manner in which you present the gospel. If you come across as a rude jerk and that’s not liked by some people, that does not equal persecution.

Now we are getting into this some, such as the florists and the cake makers who are not allowed to live out their conscience in their own personal businesses. I personally anticipate this country is going to become more and more anti-Christian if the tide is not turned around soon. However, we are nowhere near the level of a Muslim or a Communist country yet.

For people in those countries, we definitely need to offer our prayer and support and we need to consider if we take Jesus as seriously as they do. If your child goes down and kneels at the altar and accepts Jesus as their Lord and savior, you’re likely to go on Facebook and share the good news. Would you do the same in one of those countries if it meant that your child could become a target of the government for doing such? Probably not.

Do we take Jesus as seriously? Do we need to get to the point of persecution to do such? I’m one who thinks it could do the church good to get some persecution for what we do. We would get to see who’s serious about Christianity and who isn’t. It’s easy to state you’re a Christian when no one has a gun pointing at your head. It’s not so easy when they don’t.

Right now, we have it good if we live in America comparatively speaking. The question is what are we doing with it? Imagine if the apostle Paul had the access to all that we have today. What would he be doing with it? By contrast, what are we doing with it?

In many countries, people are willing to die for the gospel, which is excellent. We need that willingness. In this country, we don’t have that yet, at least not on a mass scale. So now, let’s ask ourselves a different question and this is one that’s actually much harder to ask than “Are you willing to die for Jesus?”

“Are you willing to live for Jesus?”

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Who Gives The Sermon on the Mount?

Who is it that is giving this sermon? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In looking at eschatology in the Gospels, one thing to establish is Jesus’s view of Himself as the king of Israel and yet also as the priest of Israel. I said last time that we would be looking at the Sermon on the Mount. Today, I am going to really start off by looking at that sermon.

Now the question of who gave it sounds like a no-brainer. Jesus gave it. If that’s all we’re really asking by the question, then this blog is pretty much done. The question though is more how did the person who gave it see Himself and also how is Matthew presenting Him?

Matthew constantly presents Jesus in a style that is very Jewish. His book is laid out in a fivefold format much like the Pentateuch would have been seen in. It’s split between teaching and acting. At the start, we have Jesus going to John the Baptist to be baptized going under the water. After going through the water, He enters the wilderness for 40 days and nights to be tempted.

Does this sound like any story a Jew would know? Definitely. It sounds like Israel passing through the waters of the Red Sea (In a miraculous way, of course) and then going into the wilderness where they were tempted for forty years. What comes in all of that? The giving of the Law. Lo and behold, what do we find in chapter five?

Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.

And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

It might seem like a given to say He opened His mouth to teach them. What else is He going to do? Sign language? However, Matthew chose to point this out for a reason. What is that? To make us think about the Law coming from the mouth of YHWH in the Old Testament.

Jesus then gets up and He starts expounding the Law. He starts explaining what is meant by it. We can say this is consistent with Jesus because one thing historical Jesus scholars note about Him is that He never really pointed to anyone else’s authority aside from God Himself. Jesus did not need to address any other rabbis. If all you had was the Gospels, you wouldn’t even know other rabbis existed.

Jesus is treading on sacred ground. He is handling the Law and saying that He alone has the authority. He alone can go up on the mountain and deliver the law to the people. He is the new Moses leading His people. He is the new priest. He is the new king.

He will also speak as what He says has divine authority and if He really thinks that, then how does He see Himself? You could say that any prophet in the Old Testament would do the same, but Jesus never goes “Thus sayeth the Lord.” He says quite the opposite. He says “You have heard it was said…., but I say to you.” The prophets didn’t speak like that.

So as we go through the sermon, let’s remember this is the priest telling us how to live and this is the king looking at His subjects saying this is how my reign is going to be. What will it be like? Looking at the sermon in future installments will tell us.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Why The Sermon on The Mount?

What is the point of the sermon? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

When looking at eschatology in the Gospels, one of the main points to establish is really the kingship of Jesus. For that now, we start a look at the Sermon on the Mount. Many of us look at the sermon and see a great list of ethical principles. It is that, but it is so much more.

We are in an election year and so this year, our candidates for whatever office will be going around stating what things are going to be like if they win their election. Jesus is doing the same kind of thing in this sermon. He is not just telling people how to live. He is telling them what matters most in the Kingdom of God and how you are to live in the Kingdom.

The sermon ends with the people being amazed because Jesus spoke with authority. How? He is a king and He is speaking as a king and He is laying down the law. This is quite literal. Throughout the sermon, Jesus is doing something radical. He is speaking on the Law and declaring what is really going to happen.

What’s so amazing about that? Didn’t the rabbis speak on the Law? Yes, but they always pointed to another authority. Jesus doesn’t do that. Jesus is basically getting up and saying “I’m in charge and I don’t need anyone else to back what I say.” He speaks from His own position and authority.

It’s so startling that a Jewish scholar like Jacob Neusner looked at it once and said, “Who do you think you are? God?” Well, yes. He did. He thought He alone had the authority to speak this way.

Jesus’s Kingdom is a reversal of what most kings would give. This is not about how to build up the best army to go after Rome. If anything, the only time Rome is spoken of, it is of how one can better serve a Roman soldier or how one should retaliate from an insult from a Roman soldier or any demand from such a soldier. This is not what you expect from your Messiah.

Furthermore, if you seek to follow the ethical principles, you are falling short if you do not follow the king who gave them. As Lewis said, Jesus is not just coming claiming to be a good moral teacher. He’s claiming to be the King of all. Besides, as Lewis said, we have had a penchant of not listening to our moral teachers and if Jesus was the best one, all the more reason for us to not listen to Him.

So over the next few days, I plan to look over the sermon and see it from a kingly perspective. I hope you’ll join me.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Coming Kingdom

What does the Kingdom of God refer to? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

One of the big debates in eschatology really centers around the Kingdom of God. This is something that I disagree with the way I see futurism and dispensationalism presented. The question is what does it mean for the Kingdom of God to come and then when does it begin.

I plan to look at various passages about the Kingdom of God, but mainly I want to talk about what it means. Even secular scholars today now agree that one of the main messages of Jesus was the Kingdom of God. One of the great gifts N.T. Wright has done for the church is to open our eyes to what this means.

When Jesus shows up in the Gospels even at an early point, aside from John which hardly mentions this, He is talking about the Kingdom of God. This would be significant because though Israel had returned to the land, the land wasn’t their home again entirely. After all, the Romans were ruling over the land. Israel was supposed to be sovereign over the land.

A number of figures rose up wanting to end Roman rule and claiming to be the Messiah. These figures were often going to bring an end to Roman rule. As you should know, none of them did. Jesus shows up and He claims the Kingdom of God, but He has something different in mind than booting out the Romans.

Jesus is saying that God is going to be king again. The true monarchy that God intended through David is going to be restored. David had been one king in history who had fulfilled three roles of prophet, priest, and king. His son, the Messiah, would fulfill those roles.

The true enemy though was not the Romans. It was sin. God was through Jesus proclaiming that His rule would begin and it wouldn’t be limited to just a piece of land in the Middle East. God was going to rule the whole world.

This then gets to a debate about when the kingdom of God began. For a Preterist like myself, when Jesus says “soon”, He means it. God is going to being His rule. He is going to defeat the devil. He is going to conquer. He will reclaim the world for Himself.

Thus, the question then is when did Jesus become king or when is He going to be king? For someone in my position, the answer is Jesus is king right now. Now I know some of you could be saying “Well if Jesus is king right now, then why is there still evil in the world?” That was answered in part in our look at Psalm 110:1 and we will see more of this in the Gospels. Jesus is reigning now and His enemies are being made a footstool for His feet. We are His ambassadors going around announcing the news that Jesus Christ is king of this Earth.

So as we look at eschatology, expect a lot of verses to look at the Kingdom of God. There’s more in there than you likely realized.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Olivet Discourse Matthew 24:23

Is there a Messiah in the house? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Our next verse does fit well with our own times. After all, we have several people claiming to be Jesus. I’m not just talking about people in insane asylums either. Let’s look at the verse and see what it says about such a thing.

“Someone might say to you at that time, ‘Look, there is the Messiah!’ Or someone else might say, ‘There he is!’ But don’t believe them.”

Actually this fits in better with a first-century climate. For one thing, note that it doesn’ say that people will say “Look! There’s Jesus!” They will say, “Look! It’s the Messiah!” Why does this matter? The Jews for the most part did not embrace Jesus as the Messiah since He didn’t put a stop to Rome. They were looking for another savior.

In the midst of the destruction of Jerusalem, it would be easy to look at someone else and say that someone is the Messiah who could stop the Romans. It would also be Jews that were saying that. Most Gentiles were not going around claiming someone was the Messiah.

This would be a hope to Jewish people who were under attack in Jerusalem and would be convinced that God was not going to let anything happen to His chosen people. After all, they were the ones who were faithful to the covenant. The hope for a coming Messiah was definitely there with the Romans in the land and the attack on Jerusalem would be a time for YHWH to show up.

Now in our own times, we should discount anyone who claims to be a Messiah figure or Jesus or have a new final revelation. I would say the same goes for many of our modern prophecy experts. Once again, this has a just fine first-century fulfillment and there’s no need to look beyond for more.

In Christ,
Nick Peters