What are five great New Testament stories? What story is among your favorites? Here are five stories with lessons that we should learn.
The Woman Caught in Adultery
John 8:3-6 “The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.”
The first thing that I see as missing is; where is the man? Wasn’t he involved too? Why didn’t they bring him to be stoned too? Maybe it was one of their own (a Pharisee) or maybe he was an important man but isn’t this a double standard? Also, they didn’t really care about this woman as much as they wanted to test Jesus and trap Him. If Jesus said they shouldn’t stone her, then they would accuse Him of breaking the Mosaic Law and tell all of the Jews as a way to accuse Him of breaking God’s law. If He said yes to her stoning, they would go to the Roman authorities and tell them that He is trying to take the law into His own hands as the Jews were not permitted to kill anyone. Jesus saw through their duplicity and so when He started to write on the ground, what was He writing? Here is some sanctified speculation; He may have been writing down the names of some of the Pharisees who had previously committed adultery or He may have been writing down the sins that they had committed.
John 8:7-8 “And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground.”
When it said that “He stood up” the verb tense of this is standing up to them or standing up in righteous indignation and asks them who is without any sin, let them throw the first stone. Then He bent down and continued to write in the ground (more names or sins?).
John 8:9-11 “But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
It’s interesting that the older ones left first. Was this because they likely had the most sin since they had lived the longest? Jesus does not condemn the woman and points out that all of her accusers are now gone. Jesus never said that she had not sinned and even though He didn’t condemn her, He told her “from now on sin no more” which was given as an imperative command. He tells you and me the same thing.
Peter Walks on the Water
Matthew 14:25-28 “And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.
The disciples were terrified and I wondered why they said that it was “him walking on the sea” yet they thought He was a ghost! Only when Jesus reassured them by saying “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid” did their fear abate, however Peter still seems uncertain because he says “Lord, “if” it is you…” indicating that he still has doubts. Then, Peter in his impetuous manner says “command me to come to you on the water” which seems to have Peter waiting for His Lord to command him to do so first. Was this Peter’s way of saying “command that it be possible that I come to you on the water or manipulate nature so that I can come to you?”
Matthew 14:29-33 “Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the [Greek, literally “strong”] wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Peter was okay as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus but isn’t that a lesson for us too? When we look at the stormy seas of life and take our eyes off Jesus, we too will feel we are going to sink and drown. Jesus rebuked their “little faith” and immediately the wind ceased, indicating that as the Creator, He has power over nature as well.
Jesus Pays His Taxes
Matthew 17:24-26the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?” He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?” And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free.”
When the tax collectors asked Peter whether Jesus pays His taxes, I noticed that Peter didn’t even have to think about it. He immediately said “Yes” which indicates that is was obvious (from pastor history?) that Jesus paid all the taxes that he owed, even though he had little. This two-drachma tax was not an income tax but a tax for the citizenry so everyone (like a headcount tax), and whether they had money or not they still had to pay this tax. Was Jesus noting a bit of favoritism of where the kings of the earth (the rulers) only took and never gave or that they were unfairly exempt from taxes because they laid down the rules or laws? I’m not quite certain of this.
Matthew 18:27 However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.”
We can see that, once again, Jesus is Lord over nature and commanded the right fish not only to make sure to be caught by Peter, but to have already swallowed a coin in advance, so that the tax payment would be paid at just the right time and that God would provide the exact amount and just when it was needed. The value of a shekel was four drachma and so it was enough to pay the taxes for both Peter and Jesus.
Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand
Matthew 14:15-16 “Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.”
It seems the disciples saw the over five thousand who were there (Matt 14:21) would have been too much to feed and so they wanted to send them all home but Jesus had compassion on them because it was a desolate place. That is, they were far away from any food supplies, far from home, and the place was desolate, meaning that there were probably no local resources whereby they could be fed. Then He turns this problem into a challenge and probably stunned the disciples when He said “you give them something to eat.”
Matthew 14:19-21 “he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.”
Notice that Jesus is interested in organizing the over five-thousand people and since they probably only counted the men, with their spouses and some children with them, the actual crowd could have been from fifteen to twenty-thousand people! Jesus, as God, can always multiply resources and particularly since Jesus is God, He is not limited in any way and has all the resources of the universe as His disposal. Incidentally, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that He is also called the Bread of Life, and like the manna that came down from heaven in the Wilderness, God always provided but it was always just enough for that day. That’s a lot like grace. He doesn’t give us grace for tomorrow, next week, or next year…we can only have enough for today because it’s not something that you can store up. Interestingly, they had so much left over that there were “twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over” (Matt 14:20) which would have been one basket for each disciple to carry or, symbolically, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel.
Matthew 17:1-4 “Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.”
Here, Jesus peels back His humanity and lets the disciples see the Shekinah glory of God. Peter, once again speaking before thinking, was so much in awe that all he could say was “I will make three tents here” which would have been for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. Did Peter say this because he wanted the kingdom to start right there and for Jesus to begin His rule immediately? Maybe he was so dumbfounded that he didn’t really know what to say or what he was actually saying.
Matthew 17:5-10 “a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.”
This voice from the cloud was likely the Father’s voice and He speaks for the disciples benefit, not Jesus’. The Father clearly wanted them to know this is the “beloved Son” of God and that they had better “listen to him.” Naturally, as I would do, they fell on their faces but after the vision was over, Jesus tells them to not tell anyone about this until after He was resurrected. Maybe Jesus didn’t want the Jews to know this yet because they might try to take Him by force, which they had already tried to do at least once (John 6:15), and immediately make Him their ruler, instead of it being the right time when He will come again in glory and power. That day is coming.
Jesus is coming back again. Will it be soon or will it be another century? Only God knows this. The time for you to be saved however is today (2 Cor 6:2) because no one knows the day of their death and their appointment for judgment (Heb 9:27). Only God knows this and so I beseech you today to repent of your sins, confess them to God, and place your trust in Jesus Christ, if you haven’t already done so. If you haven’t, there is another story coming but this story will have no ending for you (Rev 20:11-15) and it will be the worst of all possible stories.
Another Reading on Patheos to Check Out: What Did Jesus Really Look Like: A Look at the Bible Facts
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Blind Chance or Intelligent Design available on Amazon