Peter, the Humbled Disciple

Peter, the Humbled Disciple

By DANIEL MCCABE— “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.” 1 Peter 5:6 Did you hear about the man who was honored by his congregation as the most humble pastor in the country? They even gave him a medal for his accomplishment, but then took it back from him after he actually wore the medal to church. (1) Humility. It’s a slippery attribute. It’s hard to get and it’s hard to keep. Just ask Peter, the humbled disciple. Anything positive you might find to say about someone would likely describe Peter, one of Jesus’ twelve disciples. Tough, hard-working, popular, commanding, fearless. A casting director’s dream. When others hesitated, Peter slammed the pedal to the metal. A bit impulsive at times, but clearly the undisputed spokesman and unofficial leader of the twelve. A rock for others during unsettling times. But everyone knows that rocks can’t swim. In Matthew 14 a large rowboat packed with disciples tosses about on the choppy waters of Galilee’s Sea. Believing they had seen a ghost walking on the water close by their boat, the disciples are subsequently relieved to learn that it is Jesus. Inexplicably Peter yells over the wind, “‘Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.’ So He said, ‘Come.’ And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, ‘Lord, save me!’ And immediately Jesus stretched out His...
Thomas, the Doubting Disciple

Thomas, the Doubting Disciple

By DANIEL MCCABE— “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’” John 20:29 Long before 14-day extended forecasts and www.weather.com, a man purchased an extremely sensitive barometer from a highly respected company.  Upon its delivery to his sunny Long Island address, frustration immediately began to build for the man, for he found that the indicating needle had malfunctioned and would only point to the sector marked “HURRICANE.”  Tapping and even shaking the barometer failed to dislodge the needle.  Frustration having now turned to anger the gentleman penned a letter of complaint to the store and mailed it the next morning on the way to his job in New York City.  Returning to his home at the end of the day the man could not find his new barometer, nor for that matter could he find his home.  Long Island had been leveled by the historic hurricane of September 1938.  The barometer had been functioning perfectly.  Sometimes the evidence is right in front of us, but we won’t believe until our house is leveled. Thomas, one of Jesus’ twelve disciples, had all the evidence he needed to believe, but doubt robbed him of the blessings of faith.  In John 20:24-29 we read about his journey of faith, “But Thomas, called Didymus [The Twin], one of the twelve, was not with [the other disciples] when Jesus came [to them the first time following his resurrection].  The other disciples therefore said to him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’  But he said to them, ‘Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into...
John, the Loving Disciple

John, the Loving Disciple

By DANIEL MCCABE “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” 1 John 4:8 April 2005 brought a shower of blessing to our home, wrapped in a light blue blanket and named Baby Zach.  We had looked forward to this day all our lives and even pictured the day in our minds.  Zach would arrive with a thank you card in hand, telling Stacy how much he appreciated her care of him during all nine months of her pregnancy.  He would shake my hand at the hospital and tell me that he looked forward to obeying all the house rules.  He would promise on our drive home that he would sleep through the night—every night—and that if not, he would change his own diapers for a month.  But things went a wee bit differently. We all know that babies don’t arrive with thank you cards; promises to keep the rules; or assurances to sleep through the night.  Babies aren’t born sinless or mature.  They are born with a tendency to be ungrateful, disobedient and uncooperative.  We all start out that way.  John certainly did. John and his older brother James, disciples of Jesus, started out their ministry with the nickname “sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17).  Some of you don’t like thunder because of that time a storm blew down your barn or caused damage to your home.  Personally I love the roll and rumble of thunder.  But although some of you, like me, may enjoy a thunderstorm, I’ve never known anyone who enjoyed tempers in others—folks who bully their way through life and cause...
James, the Ambitious Disciple

James, the Ambitious Disciple

By DANIEL MCCABE— “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45 Now there have been eight head coaches. Once there was only the one. A legend. My hero. For twenty-nine years Tom Landry coached the Dallas Cowboys. Some youngsters splash their bedroom walls with posters of quarterbacks, running backs and star receivers. A poster of Coach Landry dominated my bedroom wall. I admired him for his Christian faith and for his coaching success. A reporter once asked Coach Landry if he ever prayed to win. His response wasn’t particularly poetic, but I remember him saying that he never prayed to win—only that his team would perform well. I like that attitude. After all there may be Christian athletes suiting up on the opposing team as well. Praying for a win for myself means praying for a loss for my opponent. James prayed to win. Forget the losers. There’s nothing like the sweet taste of victory. The cameras. The interviews. The endorsements. James, the son of Zebedee, one of Jesus’ twelve disciples, longed for a first-place trophy, but this ambitious disciple would instead receive a martyr’s crown. Performing well should be its own reward. Winning will sometimes follow hard work, of course, but a life spent in a mad dash to climb the ladder of success may fill your pockets, but will only empty your heart. Life’s not about collecting ribbons and rewards. Life is about how many people we can serve. Do you want to be first at everything? Fine. You’ll...
James, the Unknown Disciple

James, the Unknown Disciple

By DANIEL MCCABE— “Rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”   Luke 10:20 One ordinary spring afternoon, while weed-eating around the flat gravestones in the northeast corner of the Dallas cemetery where I worked during my seminary years, I felt something solid beneath my boots.  Looking down I saw nothing, but certain that something must be there, I began carving out the grass and soon uncovered a well hidden gravestone.  Curiously I brushed away the dirt with my hand until I could make out a faint inscription which read, “Gone, but not forgotten.” The sad irony of my discovery troubled me.  Had this individual truly been forgotten?  Would I one day be forgotten?  In all likelihood I will live my life in relative obscurity, die, and be forgotten by future generations.  But I’m fine with that because although forgotten by future generations, I will never be forgotten by God.  Neither will James, the son of Alphaeus, one of Jesus’ twelve disciples. Do you remember James?  Not the famous James, the older brother of John and son of Zebedee.  Not him.  But rather James, the son of Alphaeus, a virtually unknown disciple.  The Bible never records any questions he asked or any miracles he performed.  In fact James never receives mention at all other than to be included in the Bible’s lists of the twelve. Luke 10:20 says, “Rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”  Although unknown to you and me, God knows James intimately.  God knows you too.  He could never forget the day you asked him to be your Savior—the day you surrendered your life to him. ...
Judas Iscariot, the Two-faced Disciple

Judas Iscariot, the Two-faced Disciple

By DANIEL MCCABE— “In sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart.” 1 Peter 1:22 Mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent lived a double life.  By day he and Lois Lane worked for The Daily Planet in Manhattan, New York.  But in a moment’s notice Clark would dash into a phone booth and be miraculously transformed into Superman, crime fighter and all-round do-gooder.  He lived a double life, but in his case we like both the man and the superhero.  Some people live double lives of a different sort.  On the surface we are convinced they are upstanding citizens in the community, but then we hear the news that they were secretly involved in scandal and deceit.  I don’t know how they can do it.  It must be exhausting to keep up the charade day after day.  Someone once said that a liar has to have a great memory, so that he doesn’t get caught in his lies. Judas Iscariot lived a lie, a double life, and died a horrible death.  Judas “Iscariot”—“the man from Kerioth”—hailed from a Southern town in Israel.  That would make Judas the only Southerner in the band of Jesus’ twelve disciples.  Yankees – 11.  Confederates – 1.  The gospel writers mention Judas Iscariot in each of their lists of the disciples, but always add the statement that Judas betrayed Jesus.  Judas may have volunteered for the Big Brothers program, built houses with Habitat for Humanity, or donated regularly to the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation, but his betrayal of Jesus, our Savior, would overshadow all else. Judas looked and acted like a regular...
Judas Thaddaeus, the Steady Disciple

Judas Thaddaeus, the Steady Disciple

By DANIEL MCCABE— “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14 A rascally rabbit taunted a turtle.  You’ve probably heard the story.  Mocked for his slow speed the turtle in turn challenged the bunny and all his braggadocio to a race.  After recruiting a wise fox to set out the rules and the distance of the race, they’re off.  The rabbit takes the lead and quickly leaves the pokey turtle in a tornado of dust.  Confident of victory the rabbit stops for a nap, and the turtle passes him and plods his way across the finish line first.  The rabbit, roused from his nap and remembering the race, rushes to the line only to hear the fox declare to the rabbit’s shame, “Slow and steady wins the race.” I prefer the theology of the Bible, but sometimes the theology of t-shirts gets it right.  Have you seen the one I saw which reads, “Life is a marathon—not a sprint”?  One of Jesus’ twelve disciples, Judas Thaddaeus, the steady disciple, could have worn that t-shirt with pride.  Judas Thaddaeus served with Jesus faithfully for three years and made it to the line in his very first marathon.  Another disciple named Judas—Judas Iscariot—sprinted quickly out of the gate, but broke down before reaching the finish.  Judas Iscariot turned traitor.  But Judas Thaddaeus finished strong; he didn’t let down his team and go for the quick money. Judas Thaddaeus shows up in only one story in the Bible, and it’s on the eve of Jesus’ death—at a meal that Jesus shared...
Simon, the Rebel Disciple

Simon, the Rebel Disciple

By DANIEL MCCABE— “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” Matthew 26:52 In our part of the world it’s routine to experience the sight and sounds of a proud and powerful train engine lumbering down the tracks, and normally we keep a sharp eye out for the caboose that never seems to pass quickly enough when we’re late for school or work.  But who notices the railcar hooked to the caboose?  Chances are you don’t know a thing about ol’ Simon the Zealot either. In the books of Matthew and Mark, where we find lists of the twelve disciples, Simon is the eleventh disciple named.  Right before the caboose—Judas Iscariot—who always appears last.  Another famous Simon—Simon Peter—gets named first in each of the lists.  Peter turns heads.  Simon the Zealot passes by unnoticed. Why does the Bible call him a Zealot?  Calling him Simon the Zealot is like saying Simon the Republican or Simon the Democrat.  In Jesus’ day Zealots were an organized political party known for their hawkish ideology.  They longed to defeat the Roman legions who had occupied their homeland of Israel for decades.  The Zealots were fanatical patriots, often willing to do whatever it took to send their unwelcome conquerors packing.   Not all Zealots were willing to compromise their integrity for the sake of victory, but certainly some did.  Not all Christians would bomb abortion clinics or deface objectionable art in the name of God, but sadly some do. It’s quite interesting, don’t you think, who God picks for his disciples?  On the one hand, there’s...
Matthew, the Outcast Disciple

Matthew, the Outcast Disciple

By DANIEL MCCABE— “God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty.” 1 Corinthians 1:27 Sometimes its “four eyes” or “freckle face.”  Sometimes its “fatso” or “big nose.”   We’ve all heard a little more of that during our childhood than we might care to discuss.  Even Rudolph—one of our most loved, fictional, Christmas heroes—initially received ridicule for being the “red-nosed” reindeer.  Dasher, Dancer and their other six sleighmates decided that the cherry-nosed youngster didn’t deserve to participate in any of their games.  Rudolph only wanted to fit in, but instead found himself on the outside of all the fun—an outcast.  Just for being a “red-nosed” reindeer.  If you’ve been judged unfairly during your lifetime, then you can relate to Rudolph. You might also be able to relate to Matthew, one of Jesus’ twelve disciples.  Some would argue that Matthew deserved the treatment he received from his contemporaries.  After all, Matthew not only chose a universally polarizing vocation—tax collector—but Matthew hired out his services to the enemy.  Roman legions had invaded the Jewish homeland decades earlier, and any Jew who would sell his services to enemy conquerors might expect to be ostracized by both friend and foe.  But Matthew tried not to care.  “A man has to make a living,” he might say.  Besides, he was rich.  Tax collectors often over-charged the public and so lived a very fine life.  They lived by their version of the golden rule—he who has the gold makes the rules.  Unfortunately, money doesn’t bring happiness.  It just buys you bigger toys.  The love of God...