Tuesday, December 18, 2012

What Changes Us?, Part 2

Last time, we asked the question, essentially: What does it take for a man to change from a selfish, perhaps wimpy guy into an influential leader among Christians in the first century and beyond? John the Apostle was such a man. He became a great leader who wrote Scripture and helped lead the church into a new era.

So what changed him? We looked at two events previously. Here are two more life-changing episodes.

John was appointed in a special connection with Jesus.

The Gospel writers give lists of the Twelve Apostles, but Mark's list includes something interesting. It lists two examples of the nicknames that Jesus gave among the specially appointed team:

He appointed the Twelve:
To Simon, He gave the name Peter;
and to James the son of Zebedee,
and to his brother John,
He gave the name “Boanerges”
(that is, “Sons of Thunder”)…
(Mark 3.16-17, HCSB)

Perhaps we shouldn't read too much into this. But over the years, the folks who have chosen to give me a nickname are often those who have known me best, or worked with me the closest. I have many times done the same. A nickname is often a term of endearment, or a way to show a special connection. We know that Jesus began calling Simon by the name of Peter because of a special connection. And that's just what John the Apostle also had with Jesus. No one knows (now) exactly what Jesus meant by calling Zebedee's sons the Sons of Thunder—or however we should translate that! But my guess: it was a loving term of closeness.

I think, That sure would have changed me.

John's was certainly a special connection, but have you realized how special a connection you have with God? God knows your name, He knows your days, and even the number of hairs on your head. He may even have a nickname for you (okay, I made that part up, but it sounds just like His loving self to do something like that).

John witnessed the approval of Jesus by God the Father.

In one of the intriguing stories of the unfolding revelation of who Jesus really was and is, He allowed three of the Apostles to come to a very unique mountaintop prayer service. We call it the Transfiguration because Jesus' body and even clothes apparently began to glow! He was glorified right in front of them.

About eight days after these words, He took along Peter, John, and James and went up on the mountain to pray. As He was praying, the appearance of His face changed, and His clothes became dazzling white. (Luke 9.28-29, HCSB)

He spoke with Moses and Elijah, and then a cloud overshadowed them and the voice of God the Father said, "This is My Son, the Chosen One; listen to Him!" (v. 35). John and the others were able to be there when God the Father personally spoke on behalf of His Son to say that they should listen to Him. It's as though He was saying: The Law and the Prophets (represented by Moses and Elijah) are good, but this One—He is My Son! Be sure to pay attention to Him! Others had seen something similar at Jesus' baptism, but not this. This was a special revelation from God reserved for Peter, James and you guessed it—John.

I think, That sure would have changed me.

We may not have seen this transfiguration live, but what was once kept to themselves (v. 36) has now been told to the world through the Scriptures. And many of us have experienced God the Father's most significant approval…that of Jesus' sacrifice in our place.

More next time.