Topics in this Q&A: Lord’s Supper at home; The Greeks in John 12; Christians who pray “over” things; movies about Jesus; Jesus’s prayer for Peter’s faith.
The wisdom necessary to recognise one’s own ignorance and folly is indeed the non-negotiable starting point for growing in wisdom. When we realise our human-ness before God, and acknowledge God’s superior insight, wisdom, knowledge, and understand, then, and only then, do we embark on the Christian journey of Divine insight, wisdom, knowledge, and understanding (Pro 9:10). It is no surprise then, that asking our questions and finding the answers in God’s Word becomes common in Christianity. To that end, here are some questions our own congregation has been asking, and here are the answers from God’s Word that related to our questions.
May we partake of the Lord’s Supper at home when not able to go to church, especially over the Easter weekend?
This is a common question with many different practises within reformed, evangelical Christianity. Here is a post where you can read more about what we think are some important items for consideration. “Lockdown Lord’s Supper—Yes or No“
We read in John 3 about Nicodemus that came to Jesus by night. In John 19:39 we see him again at the preparation of Jesus’ body for burial. Does that prove that he was converted after his initial conversation with Jesus?
Presumably yes! Nicodemus, once a secretive admirer of Jesus’ teaching stands boldly with Joseph of Arimathea (also once more secretive in his worship of Jesus) to give Jesus’ body a proper burial (John 19:38-39). What is very important for us to connect is that Jesus’ evangelism of him in John 3 had nothing of the flair of modern evangelism techniques and prayers. Instead, Jesus explained to him the need for regeneration. Jesus explained how regeneration is not something that a man can do, but is the work of the Spirit of God. All that a man can do is turn to the Word of God, recognise the Son of God, and run to the Light of God. Based on the mention of this same Nicodemus in John 19, we must conclude that somewhere in between the events of chapter 3, and the events of chapter 19, the Spirit of God had performed the new birth in Nicodemus’ heart, and by his knowledge of the Word of God had come to recognise Jesus as the Son of God, and had walked by the Light of God. As with all of us, Nicodemus had been regenerated, had believed, and had obeyed. That his conversion is not recorded for us is testimony to the silent working of the Spirit regenerating sinners. For a better understanding of Nicodemus’ interview with Jesus, have a look at this study guide: “John 3:16—an exercise in Bible reading“
Knowing that nothing in Scripture is unnecessary, and that everything is profitable for us, what is the significance of John 12:20-22? It appears like a very random mention of some Greeks that came to see Jesus. The Bible gives us quite a bit of detail about how they spoke to the disciples about speaking to Jesus, but then nothing else is said. Why are they even mentioned?
John 12:20-22 is a pivotal account in John’s record of the ministry of our Lord Jesus. It most likely happened the day after the Triumphal Entry, but John skips much of what happened between it and the Triumphal Entry to connect some important dots for us. In John 12:12-19 Jesus enters Jerusalem in the most obvious Messianic way. There is no way in which any self-respecting Jew can possibly miss the reality that Jesus is the Messiah. At first you might think that the people finally connect all the dots, but instead the account tells of how the crowd, though saying all the right things, had ulterior motives, the disciples were slow to understand it all, and the Pharisees were completely indifferent to the truth that Jesus was the Messiah. (For a sermon on this, see “The Dreadful Anti-Climax“)
It is at this time that John wants us to know that what the Jewish crowd, Jewish disciples, and Jewish spiritual leaders had not recognised, a handful of non-Jews had recognised. The Greeks got it. The Jews either did not want Jesus, or just wanted a sign from Jesus, but the Greeks wanted Jesus Himself. They ask one of the most worthy questions of all time “We wish to see Jesus”. However, because of the sign-seeking crowd, they couldn’t get to Jesus, and turn to the disciples for help. The disciples make arrangements for them to see Jesus, but then the account focusses on something entirely different and we never even know if the Greeks ever got to see Jesus that day nor do we know what they would have talked about. Instead, John points us to a statement that Jesus made to the disciples: “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified”. The Greeks were, as it were, the final nail in the coffin of the Jewish rejection of Jesus, and the final confirmation that this week would end as God has purposed for it to end—in glorification, preceded by crucifixion at the hands of the Jews.
The book of Acts picks up on this theme again, where the disciples now understand clearly, and become much better witnesses showing the Gentile world how they too can see Jesus on the pages of the Jewish Scriptures.
Although we long for more information on the account of the Greeks in John 12, the little bit that is given is not random at all. It is a story that makes us stop our reading, wonder why it is written, ask the question that you asked, and recognise what it said about the Jews. The Greeks probably didn’t even know how stark a contrast they were to the Jews, but it was obvious to Jesus.
How are we to pray with a believer who, though not from some heresy or cult, has such different views to us, that when we pray they proceed to pray “health and healing over our house”, wanting to lay hands on us for the “anointing of the spirit of health”, and pray “in tongues”?
It is often during severe illness and trial that these kind of scenarios occur. The more extreme of them even fall into a worse version of what Job’s friends had wrongfully accused him of, namely, that the sickness and trials are because of a lack of faith or a presence of unconfessed sin. Such behaviour is directly opposed to the “weep with those who weep” compassion of our Lord. What we long for when another believers comes to visit us during severe sickness is Biblical perspective, truth, and care. Instead, we witness shallow theology, boastful claims, and misdirected prayers.
Praying for healing is perfectly appropriate as the plea of our hearts (Phil 4:6), but there is not room for the “over your house” or “anointing spirits of [fill in the blank]” mantras akin to mystical paganism. Speaking a word of God to exhort one another is a blessing far beyond anything else (Heb 13:7), but to speak in tongues edifies nobody (1 Cor 14:14-20).
To answer your question, consider the influence that you might have on them. If you are strong in the Lord and not easily moved by their practises and claims (Col 2:18-19), consider how your trial and your own prayers might serve them. As long as they are willing to listen to you amidst their boasts and claims over you, consider how you can direct them into better ways. Remember, Job did that, patiently enduring both his trial and the taunts of his believing friends until God was fully known to all of them. But if you find that their spirit wears out your own spirit, and that you find yourself wondering if perhaps they are not right and that your faith is perhaps too little, then consider breaking fellowship with them. Colossians 2:6-23 is a strong caution against all forms of religion that do not honour Christ and do not help in your daily battles of this life. Perhaps the complementing wisdom of Proverbs 26:4-5 would help determining if your influence on them might be greater than their influence on you.
For more insight into tongues, healing, and prophecy, here is a booklet that will answer the bigger questions:
Joel James, Questions and Answers about Healing, Tongues, and Prophecy
How are we to view movies made about the life of Christ, with people playing the role of Christ? Specifically, how does the commandment not to make any image of God related to such movies?
Irrespective of your view of movies in general, we need to make a distinction between visible forms of the man Jesus Christ and visible forms of the invisible God. Although Jesus is fully God in every regard, He does also have a body that is common to all mankind. The second commandment in the Ten Commandments is a prohibition against mankind making any image of God (Ex 20:4-6). However, when the Son of God became a man, He was “the image of God” (Col 1:15). We cannot possibly, or morally, represent the invisible God in some image, but Jesus can; Jesus does. Jesus is the one acceptable and permissible, and necessary, image of God—not in his physical appearance, but nonetheless in his humanity. Jesus, though God in every way, is a recognisable human being. We must understand that Jesus is not just a religious concept in our minds, but a person, yes, a human person. For us then to represent Jesus in his humanity, is not something that the second commandment of Moses addresses.
Back to the question about movies about the life of Christ, as far as needing an actor to represent the man Jesus, the second commandment of Moses would not have any direct bearing on it. Just because movies have their own set of ethical considerations does not make it fair for us to connect it to some commandment that by God’s own word finds its one exception in the man Jesus. As far as movies are concerned, especially those about spiritual matters, we must remind ourselves that God revealed Himself in words, not picture (Dt 4:12). Even the life of Jesus, was merely a living out of the Word of God (John 1:14).
A caution against movies about the life of Christ would be better stated in terms of the shortcomings of motion picture compared to the precision and clarity of Scripture and the Christ-like examples of holiness.
Why would Jesus tell Simon Peter, that he would pray that his faith would not fail, although He knew that Peter’s faith would fail and he would deny Him (Luke 22:31-32)?
To say that Peter’s faith failed is not quite accurate. Peter would sin in a rather obvious and public way, but he then repented in true sorrow and was reconciled to the Lord again, affirming his love for Christ even to the point of death (John 21:15-19). Judas’ faith (if you could call it that) failed, but Peter’s didn’t. Peter’s denials where not a result of God ignoring Jesus’ prayer. Instead, Jesus’ prayer was answered by God which resulted in Peter’s repentance and ministry. Remember, Jesus even made eye-contact with Peter after the third denial which prompted Peter’s repentance (Luke 22:61-62).
The fact that Jesus told Peter about His prayer on his behalf is because Peter thought he would stand strong and proud next to Jesus no matter what happened. But Jesus knew the temptations that were about to come and had therefore prayed for Peter’s faith. Then Jesus told Peter of the prayer so that when Peter realised that he could not stand firm for Christ in his own strength, that he would not like Judas keep looking to himself for a solution, but that he would look again to Jesus. Jesus knew Peter’s faith would be tested (Satanically even), and therefore, knowing Peter would sin repeatedly, Jesus asked the Father to preserve Peter’s faith.
The following sermon has a section on this interaction between Jesus and His Father, and Jesus and Peter: “Worldly VS Christian Greatness“