Biblical Places Spiritual Spaces Joppa / Jaffa

Jonah and The Calling

Jaffa is a pleasant city south of Tel Aviv along the coast with a rich history and mixed culture. Modern Jaffa has a mixed Jewish / Arab population, with markets, promenades, art galleries, restaurants, coffee shops, and restaurants. It’s also a good place to purchase home appliances, and tools, furniture, and other home items.


The French army left its mark on Jaffa

Jaffa has been a city of conflict throughout the periods of the Ottoman Empire, French invasion, British Mandate, and the Israeli War of Independence. Napoleon’s siege of Jaffa resulted in the slaughter of the Ottoman force defending it. Napoleon became enraged after his envoys had been brutally killed when delivering an ultimatum to surrender. Many buildings were burned and local inhabitants killed when the French captured the city on March 7, 1799. Afterward, he ordered the massacre of thousands of Turkish soldiers. Many others died of bubonic plague afterward.

Napoleon's deputy commissioner of war Jacques-François Miot described it thus:

On 10 March 1799 in the afternoon, the prisoners of Jaffa were marched off in the midst of a vast square phalanx formed by the troops of General Bon... The Turks, walking along in total disorder, had already guessed their fate and appeared not even to shed any tears... When they finally arrived in the sand dunes to the south-west of Jaffa, they were ordered to halt beside a pool of yellowish water. The officer commanding the troops then divided the mass of prisoners into small groups, who were led off to several different points and shot... Finally, of all the prisoners there only remained those who were beside the pool of water. Our soldiers had used up their cartridges, so there was nothing to be done but to dispatch them with bayonets and knives. ... The result ... was a terrible pyramid of dead and dying bodies dripping blood and the bodies of those already dead had to be pulled away so as to finish off those unfortunate beings who, concealed under this awful and terrible wall of bodies, had not yet been struck down.

Arielle and the French soldier sign - 2000

For us, Jaffa offers us a Biblical story of current significance.


The men and women in the Bible are our spiritual heroes and role models for us, and we should emulate their character and behavior.

Reality: Biblical characters are real men and women with the same issues as us.

For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 and all ate the same spiritual food; 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness.6 Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. …  Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. 12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. 1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 11-12

Here is one such example from the 8th Century BC, sometime before the fall of the Northern Kingdom (722 BC). A prophet name Jonah.

Micah, Hosea and Amos were contemporary prophets with Jonah, and undoubtedly they knew or knew of one another. These three spoke out about the consequences of national sin, particularly regarding the northern kingdom of Israel. However Jonah was called to give a word of encouragement to the king of Israel, Jeroboam II.

3 In the fifteenth year of Amaziah the son of Joash king of Judah, Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel became king in Samaria, and reigned forty-one years. 24 He did evil in the sight of the LORD; he did not depart from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel sin. 25  He restored the border of Israel from the entrance of Hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the LORD, the God of Israel, which He spoke through His servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was of Gath-hepher. 26 For the LORD saw the affliction of Israel, which was very bitter; for there was neither bond nor free, nor was there any helper for Israel. 27 The LORD did not say that He would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven, but He saved them by the hand of Jeroboam the son of Joash. 2 Kings 14:23-27

Imagine how Jonah felt giving this word of encouragement to Jeroboam when the other prophets were speaking against the sins of the nations. Now he called to go to the most feared neighbor, Assyria, to start a revival.

An Ottoman cannon

Jonah Chapter 1

1 The word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me.” 3 But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.
4 The LORD hurled a great wind on the sea and there was a great storm on the sea so that the ship was about to break up. 5 Then the sailors became afraid and every man cried to his god, and they threw the cargo which was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone below into the hold of the ship, lain down and fallen sound asleep.

Jonah received a call to go to Nineveh, and he doesn't want to go. Instead he heads toward Tarshish, a prosperous commercial center along the western Mediterranean coast- perhaps ancient Carthage. It is a place where one goes to make his fortune. Jonah has turned is back on God. Then comes a storm.

Principle: It is useless to flee from God. He is a relentless hunter. He will send storms of life to give us an opportunity to turn back.

 6 So the captain approached him and said, “How is it that you are sleeping? Get up, call on your god. Perhaps your god will be concerned about us so that we will not perish.”

7 Each man said to his mate, “Come, let us cast lots so we may learn on whose account this calamity has struck us.” So they cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. 8 Then they said to him, “Tell us, now! On whose account has this calamity struck us? What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?” 9 He said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the LORD God of heaven who made the sea and the dry land.”

10 Then the men became extremely frightened and they said to him, “How could you do this?” For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them.

11 So they said to him, “What should we do to you that the sea may become calm for us?”—for the sea was becoming increasingly stormy. 12 He said to them, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea. Then the sea will become calm for you, for I know that on account of me this great storm has come upon you.” 13 However, the men rowed desperately to return to land but they could not, for the sea was becoming even stormier against them.

14 Then they called on the LORD and said, “We earnestly pray, O LORD, do not let us perish on account of this man’s life and do not put innocent blood on us; for You, O LORD, have done as You have pleased.” 15 So they picked up Jonah, threw him into the sea, and the sea stopped its raging. 16 Then the men feared the LORD greatly, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows.
17  And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights.

What do we know about Jonah from chapter 1?

1) he is racist

2) he is prideful

3) he is religious and self-righteous

4) he is disobedient

 What do we know about the crew?

1) They are fearful

2) They are respectful

3) They care about Jonah

3) They are open to a relationship with Yahweh

 Who are the real heroes in this story? The crew member seem to have more compassion for Jonah than he has for them.

 The pagan captain points out Jonah’s selfishness.

1) for being a man of god but unconcerned about the problems of the people around him

2) not using the resource has to help the people around him.

 This is often a picture of the modern Church. We don’t know or are not concerned about the problems of society around us. We are too self absorbed. Decor, power, our own problems.

Principle: When we forget our calling and become self-absorbed, we become like Jonah, asleep below deck. 

 “Christianity says the way you can tell you understand the Gospel is that you are willing to deal with the outcast, the poor and the filthy.”  Tim Keller

 The captain says “Jonah you must do something “

Principle: We must not separate our faith from our public life and use the resources that God has given us to problematic situations.

 The crew has an epiphany. The turned to Yahweh, and pray to Him. They took active measures and made a sacrifice and made vows.


Our friend Gal took us to the Greek market for coffee.

Gal served with us at the Rio Coco Cafe in Utila! 


Chapter 2
1  Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the stomach of the fish, 2 and he said,
“I called out of my distress to the LORD, And He answered me. I cried for help from the depth of Sheol; You heard my voice.
3 “For You had cast me into the deep, Into the heart of the seas, And the current engulfed me.
All Your breakers and billows passed over me. 4 “So I said, ‘I have been expelled from Your sight.
Nevertheless I will look again toward Your holy temple.’
5 “Water encompassed me to the point of death. The great deep engulfed me, Weeds were wrapped around my head. 6 “I descended to the roots of the mountains. The earth with its bars was around me forever, But You have brought up my life from the pit, O LORD my God.

7 “While I was fainting away, I remembered the LORD, And my prayer came to You, Into Your holy temple.
8 “Those who regard vain idols forsake their faithfulness, 9 But I will sacrifice to You With the voice of thanksgiving.  That which I have vowed I will pay. Salvation is from the LORD.”
10 Then the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah up onto the dry land.

Jonah’s process of repentance

1) He recognized his need for God.

2) He cried out for help.

3) He remembered the Mercy Seat above the Ark in the Temple, and knew God could forgive his disobedience.

4) He prayed to the Lord, offered to sacrifice something to the Lord, but suddenly recognized that Salvation is not by works, but by the Grace of God.

Principle: When we find ourselves in distress, its important to remember God's character, His faithfulness, and His plan for our lives.

Principle: Our Salvation from our sins and relationship with God have nothing to do with what we have done (or will do!) but everything about what Jesus did on the cross. We cannot ad anything to that.

The bell tower of the church in Jaffa- its the landmark

Who were the Assyrians? The foremost terrorists of their time!

  • Every male was required to serve in the military.
  • Clay tablets were made showing torture of Assyrian enemies and sent to the next city. King Ashurmasirpal II was famous for his ‘clay terror collection.’ “I flayed many right through my land and draped their skins over the walls. I burned their adolescent boys and girls. A pillar of head I erected in front of the city.”
  • They invented the battering ram- an iron covered ram that swung on chains, with protection for the men swinging the ram.
  • They obliterated entire cities. King Sennacherib boasted how he destroyed Babylon: “The city and its houses, from it foundations to its top, I destroyed, I devasted, I burned with fire. Through the midst of that city I dug canals, I flooded its site with water, and the very foundation thereof I destroyed. I made its destruction more complete than that by a flood. That in day to dome the site of that city, and its temples and gods, might not be remembred. I completely boltted it out with floods of water and made it like a meadow.”
  • Captives were forced into brutal slavery, women were abused.
  • Captive populations were moved in mass from the homeland to other regions and other captives were brought in to fill the empty lands.
  • Under the Assyrian legal code, many crimes were punishable by death or dismemberment. Kissing another man’s wife cost the offender his lower lip, cut off by an axe. Homosexuals were castrated. Adulterers were executed.

Would you like this culture as your next-door neighbors?

Even in our modern cultural setting, Syrians have a bad reputation. We have a couple in our Saturday morning study group from Michigan name Mary Jane and Lou Zako. Lou’s family are Christians from Syria, and he grew up in the Syrian Orthodox community in Michigan. Lou even had the honor of driving the Syrian bishop of Jerusalem, Bishop Samuel, who purchased the first Dead Sea Scrolls from the shepherd Mohammed Dib, from Detroit to Chicago when he was 17. Lou was surprised to receive an escort from the Illinois State Police from the state line to Chicago, where Bishop Samuel was received as a world celebrity.

Mary Jane and Lou Zako with Bishop Samuel 

Mary Jane’s family is English and Northern European, and when we discussed the reputation that Assyrians had in ancient times, Lou revealed that many of the Syrian families in his neighborhood called themselves “Lebanese” because of the negative connotations of being Syrian (and therefore Muslim). Mary Jane jokingly referred to Lou’s Syrian community as “As-syrians. That bought laughter from our group with this loving couple.

Chapter 3
1 Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and proclaim to it the proclamation which I am going to tell you.” 3 So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, a three days’ walk. 4 Then Jonah began to go through the city one day’s walk; and he cried out and said, “Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown.”
5 Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them. 6 When the word reached the king of Nineveh, he arose from his throne, laid aside his robe from him, covered himself with sackcloth and sat on the ashes. 7 He issued a proclamation and it said, “In Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let man, beast, herd, or flock taste a thing. Do not let them eat or drink water. 8 But both man and beast must be covered with sackcloth; and let men call on God earnestly that each may turn from his wicked way and from the violence which is in his hands. 9  Who knows, God may turn and relent and withdraw His burning anger so that we will not perish.”
10 When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it.

Historically there were times in the history of Assyria where there was a crisis, the leaders led a repentance campaign, and the crisis was abated. This appears to be one of those times when the people had an encounter with the God of Heaven and Earth.

“Then the people believed in God (Yahweh).”

Principle:  Look around for the most unlikely person to be a follower of Jesus. Know that God is pursuing them, just as he pursed us.

Chapter 4
1 But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry. 2 He prayed to the LORD and said, “Please LORD, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity. 3 Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life.”

 4 The LORD said, “Do you have good reason to be angry?”

5 Then Jonah went out from the city and sat east of it. There he made a shelter for himself and sat under it in the shade until he could see what would happen in the city. 6 So the LORD God appointed a plant and it grew up over Jonah to be a shade over his head to deliver him from his discomfort. And Jonah was extremely happy about the plant. 7 But God appointed a worm when dawn came the next day and it attacked the plant and it withered. 8 When the sun came up God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on Jonah’s head so that he became faint and begged with all his soul to die, saying, “Death is better to me than life.”

9 Then God said to Jonah, “Do you have good reason to be angry about the plant?” And he said, “I have good reason to be angry, even to death.” 10 Then the LORD said, “You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight. 11 Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?

Jonah cannot believe that God has forgiven the Ninevites. He reveals that this was why he fled to Tarshish. He would rather die than see the city spared. He seems to be more concerned about his professional reputation as a prophet of God, rather than seeing lost people come to know the God of Heaven and Earth.

Jonah knows much about God, but little about God’s heart.

Jonah has hatred in his heart and wants to see vengeance. God sees sin and has compassion, He offers salvation to even the most dastardly civilization of that time.

The park monument in Jaffa.

What then should be our course of action? Here is what Jesus says:

43 “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. 44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. Matthew 5:43-45

Principle: Jesus says the best way to reach those who dislike us is to actively love and serve them. Treat them as a friend. Speak to them with respect. Know that our kindness will wear down even the most hardened heart.

Jonah had a calling, just as we do.  Paul helps us understand this calling in the opening remarks in his letter to the Romans:

Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus,  called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, 4 who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake, 6 among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ;
7 to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as  saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 1:1-7

klētós; to call. Called, invited, welcomed, appointed. Originally it was used to designate those invited to a banquet.

Principle: A calling from God is an invitation to participate with Him in His campaign to bring all mankind into his family for eternity.

 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.                             2 Peter 3:9

Principle: God wants all mankind to spend eternity with Him. That is why He created the Human race.

Like all invitations, a calling can be accepted or refused. Jonah was called to be a prophet of Yahweh, speaking his words of warning, exhortation, encouragement, and comfort to those around him. Yet we saw Jonah rejecting his calling to go to Nineveh, possibly because of his hatred of the Assyrians or his concern for his professional reputation. He didn’t want to be known as the prophet for the ungodly.  Jonah’s story shows us that God is concerned for the salvation of all mankind, especially those who seem to be the farthest from him. Here is an example from the life of Jesus.

And Levi gave a big reception for Him in his house; and there was a great crowd of tax collectors and other people who were reclining at the table with them. 30  The Pharisees and their scribes began grumbling at His disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners?” 31 And Jesus answered and said to them, “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:29-32

Principle: God desires all mankind to be part of his family. Often the hardest to reach are those who consider themselves as “good people.”

Laura and Dottie - Jaffa Square

Jesus had many encounters with those who were considered ‘good people’.’ After healing a man born blind on the Sabbath, the Pharisees investigated this miracle, not believing that Jesus had the power to do this or was utilizing demonic power, since it happened on the Sabbath. They spoke with the formerly blind man, his parents, and then to the man again, who affirmed that only a man from God could do such a unique miracle.

Jesus heard that they had put him out, and finding him, He said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him, and He is the one who is talking with you.” 38 And he said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped Him. 39 And Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.” 40 Those of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things and said to Him, “We are not blind too, are we?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.                                       John 9:35-41

Sharing a meal with friends in Jaffa - 2018

All of us who have received Jesus as our Savior and Lord are given a “Great Commission” to focus our life efforts on bringing the message of salvation to all the world and make disciples of those whom God places in our path. Here is how Matthew recorded this Grand Calling that Jesus gave to all his disciples.

18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20  NASB

poreúomai; a passing or passage. To transport oneself, to go from one place to another. “having gone, going”

mathēteúō, disciple. to make a disciple; to instruct with the purpose of making a disciple. aorist imperative, command form.

Here is my understanding of this Great Commission:

“All authority in Heaven and on Earth has been given to me. Therefore proceed on the journey that you began with me and make disciples of all the races and ethnic groups in the world, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all that I commanded you, and remember, I’ll be with you as you do this.”  GMB Literal Translation

Are you a disciple of Christ? Then this commission applies to you and all of us.

Randy teaching the Jonah lesson with Tel Aviv in the background

Paul gives us further understanding of this calling, when he old his friends in Ephesus

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9  not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10

poíēma;  Something made, a work, workpiece, workmanship. Figuratively in Eph. 2:10; It denotes the result of work, what is produced as contrasted to poíēsis which is the act of making,

proetoimázō: to make ready. To prepare beforehand. In the NT equivalent to predestinate, to appoint before. The only two times this verb is used in the NT, it is used of God's foreordaining for good, referring to glory and to good works.

Principle: God has a specific plan for our lives that he put in motion as He was creating Earth.

We ourselves are handmade by God Himself for specific tasks to accomplish here on Earth that He planned in advance, before the foundation of this world. God has a specific purpose for our lives. When we make that decision to accept Jesus’s sacrifice for our sins, which he did on the cross, God does something transformation to us- he places a portion of Himself inside us.

In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is  given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.  Ephesians 1:13-14

Now we are connected to God’s consciousness and can hear his voice and understand his thoughts, and we have received special empowerments as tools to accomplish these specific tasks assigned to us.

These supernatural empowerments are listed in 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12, along with other places in Scripture.

7 A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other. 8 To one person the Spirit gives the ability to give wise advice; to another the same Spirit gives a message of special knowledge. 9 The same Spirit gives great faith to another, and to someone else the one Spirit gives the gift of healing. 10 He gives one person the power to perform miracles, and another the ability to prophesy. He gives someone else the ability to discern whether a message is from the Spirit of God or from another spirit. Still another person is given the ability to speak in unknown languages, while another is given the ability to interpret what is being said. 11 It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have.                  1 Corinthians 12:7-11

In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. 7 If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. 8 If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.                  Romans 12:6-8

Principle: God equips us with supernatural abilities to accomplish specific things in this life.

 These are the tools that the Holy Spirit gives us to fulfill our calling. Which of these tools has he given you?  Have you been involved in a conversation, or a situation where suddenly something comes forth from you that is just what that situation needs, and you are surprised at the words or abilities that you are displaying which are not normally present, and you are amazed at the effect that your words and actions are having on that situation? That is the Holy spirit empowering you to be his representation at that moment for that situation. It’s quite a remarkable experience!

A coffee roasting cafe in Jaffa

The Bible is clear that God has placed us in our communities where we can be effective in our callings. Its not just at church or a Bible study, but its often at our workplace, or where we gather with our friends for meals, exercise, or conversation. Remember the original calling that God gave to mankind:

15 Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.             Genesis 2:15                                                                                             

Work is a godly activity.  In the Old Testament God appears as a creator, as a gardener. In the New Testament he appears as a constructor, a carpenter. God creates man and assigns him work: to fill the Earth, rule over it and cultivate it.


1) to develop, establish, foster, devote yourself to;

2) improve, better, train, discipline, refine, enrich, civilize

From this word we get the word Culture: The total of the inherited ideals, beliefs, values, and knowledge, which constitute the shared bases of social action.

Principle: God’s primary calling, or vocation for us all is to cultivate the Earth with His culture.

I think its clear in the Bible calls us to cultivate our society through Godly behavior, morality, and ethics. He has assigned us positions in our world to accomplish this.

What positions?

First or all we are members of a family. We were all children, and as a result, brothers and sisters (unless you were an only child. Now perhaps we are fathers and mothers.

Next we live in a community. We are neighbors and have people who live around us. We are citizens of a city, a state, and a nation. We have jobs that provide our income, and ultimately should benefit all those around us.

Thus I can conclude that we are called by God to be a

  1. Good Friend,
  2. Good husband, wife, father, mother, uncle, aunt, child, brother, sister, and cousin.
  3. Good Employee and/or a Good Boss
  4. Good Citizen and finally
  5. A Faithful Follower of God.

 17  Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. 23 Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, 24  knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. Colossians 3:17, 23-24

There is a price to pay for our calling.  Jesus says we must lay aside our agenda and pick up his.

Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; 18 and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. 19 But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. 20 For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.
21 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. 22 You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.

37 “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it. Matthew 10:16-22, 37-39

Principle: We must die to our own agenda, plans, and purposes of life and adopt God’s agenda and forsake other relationships and everything, even to the point of death.

North of Jaffa is Tel Aviv

 Jesus promises us ‘rewards’ for our service to him.

11 For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13  each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. 14 If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. 1 Corinthians 3:11-15

Principle: As we give up aspects of our own agenda and life, God promises that he will fill us with deep satisfaction and peace in this life, and rewards in the life with Him ahead.

Because of our calling, there will be opposition by those rebellious angels. They will seek to distract, confuse, discourage, harm and even kill us. They want us to stay in the dugout, sitting on the bench, out of the game. They will use judgmental attitude toward others, pride, fear, sickness, laziness, habitual sins, and self-absorption to keep us from fulfilling our calling.

0 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. John 10:10

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7 casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. 8  Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9   But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. 10 After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. 1 Peter 5:6-10

The writer of Hebrews gives us this word of encouragement.

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the  author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
3 For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary  and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3

Principle: Life is a race that we are running once we come to Christ, from the moment we receive Him as our savior and Lord until or last breath.


Bernini created a 'cloud of witnesses in Vatican Square in Rome, with over 140 three meter statues of famous saints on top of the colonnade around the square. I took this photo of the 'cloud of witness' and added the verse. 

Saul / Paul was a righteous, zealous Pharisee with all the credentials that set him above most of the Hebrew population. He knew much about God, but like Jonah did not understand God’s heart. After his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, everything changed. Here is how he described that change to his friends in Philippi:

7 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of  knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, 9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and  the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11  in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

12 Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.

 13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.15 Let us therefore, as many as are  perfect (mature), have this attitude;                   Philippians 3:7-15

 Principle: God’s calling for us has our highest priority. Nothing else compares to the surpassing value of knowing Jesus and experiencing Him in our daily lives.

What happens when we fail?  Does God cancel the our calling? Here is what Paul told the Romans in regard to the hostility of the Jews toward the followers of Christ:

From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; 29 for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. Romans 11:28-29

Principle: God’s calling is permanent and irrevocable, even when we temporarily lay it aside.

 Remember Peter, the prideful disciple, who boasted that even of the other disciples abandoned Jesus, he would always be faithful?

And Jesus *said to them, “You will all fall away, because it is written, ‘I WILL STRIKE DOWN THE SHEPHERD, AND THE SHEEP SHALL BE SCATTERED.’ 28 But after I have been raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.” 29 But Peter said to Him, “Even though all may fall away, yet I will not.” 30 And Jesus *said to him, “Truly I say to you, that  this very night, before a rooster crows twice, you yourself will deny Me three times.” 31 But Peter kept saying insistently, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” Mark 14:27-31

The door of the Church of En Galli Cantu, built on the site of Caiphas' house.

Here is the moment that Jesus tells Peter he will deny him three times before the rooster crows.

What Jesus foretold happened a few hours later as Jesu was being questioned by the High Priest and Peter was standing with John by the charcoal fire outside Caiphas’ house.

Then the slave-girl who kept the door *said to Peter, “You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He *said, “I am not.” 18 Now the slaves and the officers were standing there, having made a charcoal fire, for it was cold and they were warming themselves; and Peter was also with them, standing and warming himself. John 18:17-18

71 When he had gone out to the gateway, another servant-girl saw him and *said to those who were there, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” 72 And again he denied it with an oath, “I do not know the man.” 73 A little later the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Surely you too are one of them; for even the way you talk gives you away.” 74 Then he began to curse and swear, “I do not know the man!” And immediately a rooster crowed. 75 And Peter remembered the word which Jesus had said, “Before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly. Matthew 26:71-75

The statue depicting the moment the rooster crows.

Peter had failed miserably. He was a broken man who remained silent throughout the next days, even when Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection. Peter was so ashamed that he decided to lay down his calling, and go back to his former profession of fishing.

1 After these things Jesus  manifested Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and He manifested Himself in this way. 2 Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter *said to them, “I am going fishing.” They *said to him, “We will also come with you.” They went out and got into the boat; and that night they caught nothing.

“I am going fishing is in the Present Infinitive tense. It means continuous or repeated action. Peter, because of his shame of denying and cursing Jesus, has decided to abandon his call "To fish for men" (Luke 5:10-11) and return to his former profession- catching fish.

Fishing in the harbor of Tiberias, Sea of Galilee

4 But when the day was now breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 So Jesus *said to them, “Children, you do not have any fish, do you?” They answered Him, “No.” 6 And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat and you will find a catch.” So they cast, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish. 7  Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved *said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” So when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put his outer garment on (for he was stripped for work), and threw himself into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the little boat, for they were not far from the land, but about one hundred yards away, dragging the net full of fish.
9 So when they got out on the land, they *saw a charcoal fire already laid and fish placed on it, and bread.

The word charcoal fire is the same word used to describe the fire that Peter was warming himself outside Caiphas’ house the night he denied he knew Jesus and curse him. Jesus wanted Peter to make the connection to that moment.

10 Jesus *said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have now caught.” 11 Simon Peter went up and drew the net to land, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not torn.

12 Jesus *said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples ventured to question Him, “Who are You?” knowing that it was the Lord. 13 Jesus *came and *took the bread and *gave it to them, and the fish likewise. 14 This is now the third time that Jesus was manifested to the disciples, after He was raised from the dead.

In Biblical culture, you only eat with your friends. Jesus was sending a cultural message to Peter: “In spite of your denying that you knew me, we are still in the same relationship as before, we are friends, and nothing has changed about your calling.”

15 So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus *said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you  love (agapao) Me more than these?”

Was Jesus referring to Peter’s fishing buddies, or the 153 fish flopping around in the baskets?  Since Peter had decided to abandon his calling and return to something comfortable and profitable, I think the answer is obvious to John, who is telling us this story.

 He *said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love (phileo) You.” He *said to him, “Tend My lambs.” 16 He *said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love (agapao) Me?” He *said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love (phileo) You.” He *said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.”

17 He *said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love (phileo) Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me? (phileo) ” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus *said to him, “Tend My sheep.” John 21:1-17

Jesus ask Peter if he loves him because of who he is, not what can be gotten from the relationship (agapao). Peter responds that he loves Jesus like a brother (phileo), a relationship with benefits for both parties. Jesus repeats the question, and finally the third time Jesus asks Peter “Do you really love me like a brother?. Peter is grieved that Jesus calls him on his unwillingness to love him in an unconditional manner. Yet the message is clear: “Peter, you have a calling, and in spite of your failures, the calling remains, now forget your old ways and profession, and let’s do something incredible together that will last for Eternity.”

Principle: Even in the deepest hole of failure, Jesus gives us opportunity to pick up our calling.

Sunrise over the Sea of Galilee

Jonah fled from is calling to go to Nineveh, yet when he reluctantly did go in obedience, God and Jonah’s efforts resulted in the greatest revival recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures. Jonah himself finally understood God’s heart for the lost, especially those “evil lost” as well as his heat for the “righteous.” He also understood his own sinful heart and repented.

Who but a transparent repentant sinner would write such an account of his failures?


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