Point of Reference
by Fred Price
The Bible says the least about Nathanael, James the Less and Thaddaeus, yet what it does say is informative and significant. Nathanael first heard of Jesus through his friend Philip, who informed him of his belief that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed the Messiah. ( John 1:43-45)
Philip’s description of Jesus, as foretold by Moses and the Prophets, hints at Nathanael’s familiarity with Hebrew scripture. But his first reaction to the announcement concerning Jesus reveals a prejudiced attitude against people of different backgrounds; causing him to question, “Can any good come out of Nazareth?” John 1:46 Judaism had a long history of excluding the “heathen” from their midst, but this was an expanded prejudice – for a fellow Jew – possibly perceived as a country bumpkin. He did later prove quick to believe after a personal introduction to Jesus, revealing a heart and mind, however flawed, open to the power of God and instruction; leading to a faithfulness that was used by God to accomplish His purposes. ( John 1:47-49)
James the Less , ( Mark 15:40 – possibly denoting size or age; not necessarily significance) is only specifically referenced in scripture by name. ( Luke 6:15) Some believe he may have been a brother of Matthew ( Mark 2:14), or even a cousin to Jesus. ( John 19:25) He typified in his anonymity the countless Christians who labor “behind the scenes”, quietly doing the non-glamorous chores and duties that usually go unnoticed and uncommented on but which must be done for effective ministry to take place. He exemplifies the conviction that the vessel should never be the issue, the Master Potter remaining the focal point and recipient of honor and praise. James apparently exhibited no particular leadership skills, asked no critical questions, demonstrated no unusual insight; he sought no personal recognition – and received none. His only claim to fame is that the Lord chose him for a purpose and he diligently fulfilled it. We can only pray that one day that will be said of us all.
Judas , son of James ( Luke 6:16), also known as Thaddaeus ( Matthew 10:3), proved to have a teachable spirit. Which was fortunate for him as Jesus taught that his purpose and being would be fully manifested only to those open to his teaching. Many people did not comprehend his true identity and purpose, anticipating a Messiah who would meet their expectations – such as earthly rule and ease of living – rather than focusing on meeting God’s expectations; such as acting justly, loving mercy and walking humbly with God. ( Micah 6:8) One day, in discussing the means by which God reveals himself and the proper response of those who recognize and accept that revelation; Thaddaeus asked, “…Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?” ( John 14:22) – revealing a tender heart of humility. Jesus’ reassuring response was one intended to encourage as well as instruct. “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” John 14:23.
The lives and ministry of these men (including Matthias, who replaced Judas – Acts 1:21-26) are shrouded in obscurity; none of them obtaining wide-spread recognition, but they don’t seem to have sought any. Their reward was in hearing their Master say, “Well done.” As such, they remind us of their fellow un-named and unrecognized laborers noted in Hebrews 11:33-38, “…who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. (However) Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated … They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.” But in spite of their humble condition, “ The world was not worthy of them. ”!
Primary resource material taken from John MacArthur’s, Twelve Ordinary Men – Subtitled: How the Master Shaped His Disciples For Greatness, and What He Wants To Do With You and Follow Me, Christ’s Call, Our Response
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Fred Price - married (50 years), father of two grown children, grandfather of six.
Fred retired earlier this year after 42 years as a factory worker. He has always had a heart for young people and the challenges they face today. Over the years Fred has taught Discipleship Groups for High School and college students.
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