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90 Days with The Beloved Disciple
By BETH MOORE
B&H Publishing Group
Copyright © 2008
All right reserved.
Chapter One Day 1
The Little Brother
Before You Begin Read Matthew 4:18-22
Stop and Consider
Going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They were in a boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets. (v. 21)
What were you doing when Jesus first came to you? What ordinary things occupied your time and attention? __________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________
In what ways might your nature and background be similar to John's? Or in what ways could your two experiences not possibly be any more unlike? __________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________
The people we will come to know together in this book were Jews at a time when Judaism had perhaps never been more Jewish. By this expression I mean that although they were under Roman rule, they enjoyed significant freedom to live out their culture. They were firmly established in their land and had their temple. Every sect of religious life was functioning at full throttle: the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the teachers of the law, to name only a few.
Life in the Galilean villages of Capernaum and Bethsaida must have seemed light-years away from the hub of religious life and Herod's temple in Jerusalem, but one thing varied little from Hebrew to Hebrew: YHWH was life. Provider, Sustainer, Sovereign Creator of all things. (YHWH is the divine name of God, never pronounced by the Jews; in English it is often referred to as Yahweh or Jehovah.) To them, to have little thought of God was to have little thought at all.
Our John the apostle came from the rural land to the north. If the more sophisticated Jew in the Holy City thought the simple settlers on the Sea of Galilee envied him, he was sorely mistaken. Neither was without the inevitable troubles that make living part of life. Each had his preferences. Each had a point of view. One awakened to the brilliance of the sun dancing off the gleaming walls of the temple. The other saw the sun strolling on the surface of the lake. A fisherman would have been hard to convince that the glory of God dwelled more powerfully in a building made of stone than in a bright pink and purple sunset over the Sea of Galilee. I know this for a fact. I live with a fisherman.
Two pairs of sons grew up not far from each other on the northern tip of the Sea of Galilee. Four pairs of feet earned their calluses on the pebbles of a familiar shore. From the time their sons were knee-high to them, Zebedee and Jonah were responsible not only for making sure their rambunctious offspring didn't drown but also for harnessing their insatiable curiosity with their trades. The fathers were the walking day-care centers for their sons, and their sons' mothers would be expecting them home in one piece before dusk or after a long night of fishing.
Peter, Andrew, James, and John. They were trees planted by streams of water being raised to bring forth their own fruit in season (Ps. 1:3). If those fathers had only known what would become of their sons, I wonder if they would have raised them any differently. Come to think of it, I doubt it. They were simple men with one simple goal: to teach their sons all they knew.
Our task is to piece together what our protagonist's life might have been like in childhood and youth before a Lamb came and turned it upside down. We first meet John on the pages of the New Testament in Matthew 4:21. There we read that the fishing boat contained "James the son of Zebedee, and his brother John." Scholars are almost unanimous in their assumption that John was the younger brother of James. In the earlier references, he is listed after his brother, James, which was often an indication of birth order in Scripture and other ancient Eastern literature.
In their world, if any name existed more common than James (a hellenized form of Iakob or Jacob), it was John. Since the family used the Hebrew language, they actually called him Jehohanan. It may sound a little fancier, but the name was as common as could be. I don't get the feeling James and John were the kinds of boys about whom the neighbors mused, "I can't wait to see what they'll turn out to be. Mark my word. They'll be something special!" Those who watched them grow up assumed the sons of Zebedee would be fisherman. Just like their father.
If we're right and James was the older brother, he held the coveted position in the family birth order. Special rights and privileges belonged to him as well as a birthright that assured him a double portion of his father's estate. The firstborn was a leader in the family, commanding a certain amount of respect for a position he did nothing to earn. John? He was just the little brother.
Most of us have experienced the ambiguity of being known by little more than our relationship to someone else. I can remember feeling lost in a whole line of siblings growing up. I have fond memories of my mother calling me every name in our big family but mine. I often grinned while she scrambled for the right one and then, exasperated, finally would say, "If I'm looking at you, I'm talking to you!" I'd giggle, "Yes, ma'am!" and run off while she was still doing her best to remember what my name was.
Some things about parenting must be universal. Surely Zebedee looked straight at Jehohanan and accidentally called him Iakob at times. If so, would young John have been the type to let it go unnoticed, or might he have said, "Abba! I am Jehohanan!" These are thoughts I love to explore imaginatively when studying a character.
Either way John was no doubt accustomed to being Zebedee's other son and James's little brother. However common his name, the meaning was extraordinary: "God has been gracious." Growing up on the shore of Jesus' favorite sea, John had no idea at this point just how gracious God had been. He would soon get a glimpse.
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How have you been identified by your relationship with others? In what ways has this been a blessing in your life? In what ways, though, has it seemed limiting or restrictive, making you feel misunderstood, as though you can't be yourself? _____________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________
Praying God's Word Today
Lord, I am awed by the many times in Scripture when the gospel writers, in crafting their divinely inspired narratives, wrote the words, "Jesus came ..." To the home of a synagogue official whose daughter awaited healing (Matt. 9:23). To the town where Zacchaeus lived, awaiting a new heart (Luke 19:5). To disciples cowering behind closed doors following His death and resurrection, awaiting belief (John 20:19). I praise you today, Lord Jesus, for coming to us ... for coming to me. _______________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________
Chapter Two Day 2
Before You Begin Read Luke 5:1-11
Stop and Consider
He fell at Jesus' knees and said, "Go away from me, because I'm a sinful man, Lord!" For he and all those with him were amazed at the catch of fish they took. (vv. 8-9)
When was the last time Christ amazed you? How did it come about? What did it change about your or someone else's circumstances? __________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________
Our natural tendency is to lose our sense of wonder over time. But why? What causes the human heart and spirit to find God less awe-inspiring than He actually is? ___ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________
At the time when Andrew, Peter, James, and John were casting their nets into the Sea of Galilee, a vigorous fishing industry was booming all over the lake. Many villages populated the shores of this body of water. Not only was it the food basket of the region; the sight was breathtaking. It still is. The surrounding hills cup the lake like water in the palm of a large hand. I've seen with my own eyes how the early spring sunrise hangs lazily in the clinging winter mist. Since the first time I saw the Sea of Galilee, I understood why Christ seemed to favor the villages near its shore over the metropolis of Jerusalem.
Bethsaida lies at the northern tip where the Jordan River feeds the lake. The name Bethsaida means "house of fishing," and it lived up to its name. We know for a fact that Andrew and Peter were from Bethsaida, and we can safely assume Zebedee also raised his sons in the village, since they were all partners. As we will soon discover, at some point Andrew and Peter moved to nearby Capernaum where Peter lived with his wife and mother-in-law (Mark 1:21, 29). We don't know for certain which of the two villages housed James and John at this point in their lives, but we do know they all continued to work together.
Obviously Zebedee was the one who owned the fishing enterprise. We read in Mark 1:20 that James and John "left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men." While I don't want to intimate that Zebedee was wealthy (since few villagers were), we'd probably be mistaken to think him poor. The reference to the hired servants tells us that he owned his own business and was profitable enough to have servants in addition to two healthy and able sons. Both boats might easily have been in his ownership. Peter and Andrew could have fished from one (which was considered theirs in Luke 5:3) while a little farther away (Mark 1:19) James and John fished from another.
God wisely equipped us with four Gospels because we learn far more from hearing several accounts of anything especially noteworthy. The facts one writer included may not have been noted by another because each point of view was tinted by the individual's perspective and priorities. While writing Jesus the One and Only, I learned I could almost always expect Luke to be a little more specific than the other Gospel writers, which made perfect sense to me. He was a doctor, and a good doctor pays attention to details. You'll find this principle to hold true in the passage at hand.
In his fifth chapter, Luke recorded the call of Peter, Andrew, James, and John. Simon Peter told Jesus that they had fished all night. Obviously our little band of fisherman worked the graveyard shift at times. I can only think of one thing worse than fishing in the cold. That would be not catching anything. It happens to the best of fisherman. When it happens to my husband, Keith, I always ask him the typical sanguine woman question: "But did you have fun with your friends anyway?" My personality is given to the philosophy that the question is not so much whether you succeeded or failed but if you had fun in the process. I wish I had a picture of Keith's face when I ask him that question. I'd put it in the margin for your amusement.
I can go no further without musing over Christ's divinely uncanny ability to waltz right into a life and turn it upside down, inside out, and every which way but loose. Just think how many times those fishermen had prepared and cast their nets together. Picture how many years they had practiced a routine. They weren't fishing for the pure enjoyment of it as my husband does. Fishing was their job. I don't doubt they loved it as most men would, but don't think for a moment it wasn't work. Hard work.
Hear them declare it so. Upon Jesus' suggestion that they "put out into deep water and let down your nets for a catch," Peter answered Jesus, "Master, we've worked hard all night long and caught nothing" (Luke 5:4-5).
Yes, they worked hard. Day in. Day out. Then one day Jesus walked up. And everything changed.
Oh, beloved, isn't that exactly like Him? Jesus walks right up, catches us in the act of being-again today-exactly who we were yesterday, and offers to turn our routine into adventure. Hallelujah! Have you allowed Christ to do that for you? If you're bored with life and stuck in a rut of routine, you may have believed in Christ, but you may not yet have agreed to follow Him. Christ is a lot of things, but boring? Not on your life! Life with Him is indeed a great adventure.
You don't necessarily have to leave behind what you do if He proves your present course to be His will, but I assure you He will have you leave the boredom and routine of it behind. When Jesus Christ takes over our lives, things get exciting!
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Consider where you are in this present season of your life. Keep in mind that even our spiritual practices can become very routine. Also keep in mind that living in what we'll call the Great Adventure doesn't mean you don't have challenges or even times of suffering, but it means that you can "see" and take part in the breathtaking work of Christ in your life. What glimpses have you seen of this already? What might be out there waiting for you? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________
Praying God's Word Today
O Lord, I know that it is only by the abundance of Your faithful love that I have been welcomed into Your house. Therefore, I bow down toward Your holy temple in reverence (Ps. 5:7), amazed at who You are and what You do. You work so that people will be in awe of You, Lord God (Eccles. 3:14). And even if only a few pay attention, may I be one who never grows weary of seeing Your glory in all things, even ordinary things. __ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________
Chapter Three Day 3
Before You Begin Read John 1:35-42
Stop and Consider
When Jesus turned and noticed them following Him, He asked them, "What are you looking for?" They said to Him, "Rabbi ... where are You staying?" (v. 38)
At this season of your life, what do you sense you need most: preparation for a fresh work of God? Repair from a tear? Restoration from a fall? _________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________
How could you demonstrate your willingness to follow Him faithfully into whatever He knows is next for you? _______________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________
Peter, Andrew, James, and John knew Christ at least by reputation based on John the Baptist's faithful ministry, and at least several of them knew Him by a prior encounter. We know from John 1, for example, that two disciples were nearby and heard John the Baptist declare Jesus to be "the Lamb of God" as He passed by (vv. 35-36). Verse 40 identifi es one of these men as Andrew. Many scholars believe that John the disciple was the other, since as a rule John did not identify himself in his writings. We know for certain that Peter met Christ as this earlier time because John 1:42 tells us Andrew brought him to meet Jesus.
So when Jesus approached them at their boats, they were primed and readied by God-even if through a short period of time-to leave everything behind and follow Christ anywhere.
In fact, I'd like to suggest that just as James and John were preparing their nets, they themselves had been prepared. The word "preparing" in Mark 1:19 (NIV) can also mean "repairing." The exact same word is used in Galatians 6:1 (NIV) for restoring a fallen brother-"If someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently." Oh, how thankful I am that the same God who prepares also repairs and restores.
Excerpted from John by BETH MOORE Copyright © 2008 by Beth Moore. Excerpted by permission.
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