Matthew 10:1-4 – These Guys Changed The World? Part 7 (Bartholomew)

Posted: November 25, 2015 in 40-Gospel of Matthew

Matthew 10:1-4
These Guys Changed the World? Part 7 (Bartholomew)

I have a friend who lives in California, Christina Carey, who said something to me back when Elena and I were living in Livermore, CA that has stuck with me since then. It was over five years ago when she said this statement and it still resonates with me to this day. During a meeting at the church that Christina, Elena and I attended in Livermore (Livermore Alive Community Church) about evangelism, Christina laid down this gem. She likened sharing the gospel to teaching someone to play basketball. There are those of us who are there to hand them the basketball the first time. There are those who teach the person how to dribble. There are those who teach the person how to be a part of an offense and defense on the court. There are those that teach the person how to shoot. Those who teach how to drive to the basket and there are those who teach the person how to slam dunk the basketball in the goal. She said when you think of it, we all play a part in someone coming to Christ. Some of us introduce the concept of Christ to others. Some of us lead people to a more complete understanding of Christ and what he did. And sometimes, we are the ones that are there for the slam dunk, that moment when someone accepts Christ as their Savior. For the one who is lucky enough to be there when someone accepts Christ as their Savior, they must give thanks to all those who had planted seeds in that person’s life previously. Without those previous encounters with the gospel, there would be no slam dunk (salvation) moment. Even though the one who is there at the moment of salvation gets to experience that joy, it is to be shared with those who planted the seed but didn’t get the slam dunk moment. It is this concept of encountering people with the gospel that leads me to speak of Bartholomew today.

What if Philip had not shared the gospel with Bartholomew? We might have had only 11 disciples or there would have been a longer period of time before the 12th guy was picked. Philip was unashamed. He shared the gospel. Nathaniel, also known as Bartholomew, was one of the 12 original apostles of Jesus Christ. Little is written about him the Gospels and book of Acts. Most Bible scholars believe Nathaniel and Bartholomew were the same person. The name Bartholomew is a family designation, meaning “son of Tolmai.” Nathaniel means “gift of God.” In the synoptic Gospels, the name Bartholomew always follows Philip in lists of the Twelve. In the Gospel of John, Bartholomew is not mentioned at all; Nathanael is listed instead, after Philip. John also describes Nathanael’s call by Philip. The two may have been friends, for Nathanael scoffs, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” (John 1:46, NIV) Seeing the two men approach, Jesus calls Nathanael a “true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false,” then reveals that he saw Nathanael sitting under a fig tree before Philip called him. Nathanael responds to Jesus’ vision by proclaiming him the Son of God, the King of Israel. Church tradition says Nathaniel carried a translation of Matthew’s Gospel to northern India. Legend claims he was crucified upside down in Albania.

As we have in this series on the disciples, we must ask the question again. What can we learn from this man, Bartholomew? What can we carry away from him that we can use in our lives today? First, we learn that Bartholomew responded to the gospel immediately and overcame his skepticism. Second, we learn that we are called to share the gospel regardless of the response we receive. In Bartholomew, we see a man who responded to the gospel that was shared with him and it radically changed his life. He went on to become a great man of faith that was willing to die, and did, to share the message of Jesus Christ.

The first thing that I think that we can learn from Bartholomew is that we were all skeptical of this Jesus thing before we came to Christ. A lot of people accept that Jesus Christ lived and breathed and that he in fact existed. However, non-believers find it hard to accept that He was God in the flesh. Some like to see Him as this peace-loving, 1960’s flower child type. He loves everyone. Never condemns. Never judges. He will accept anything and everything you do. He was that lenient and tolerant. Some see him as this political revolutionary that gave his life for the cause of liberation from social injustice. Some see him as this radical rabbi philosopher that introduced a counter-cultural way of living that treasures peace over war, love over hate. But for him to be the Son of God. People are skeptical. Bartholomew was just like you and me before we encountered Christ. In John 1:46, we see Bart’s skepticism. Nothing good could ever come from Nazareth. He was skeptical of the Messiah coming from a podunk, cultural backwater town like Nazareth. He used that as his excuse for dismissing Jesus as the Messiah. He didn’t really believe there was a Messiah. He did not believe after all this time and history of oppression from other nations since the fall of the David/Solomon empire. To him, there was no Messiah. It was just a fairy tale for the hard-core Jewish believers. Some today, before they encounter Christ, think the Christian faith is just a fairy tale for the masses. Karl Marx, the father of socialist political and economic theory, called religion the opiate of the people. Many today in the 21st century dismiss Jesus as an opium of a bygone era. They like the ideas of peace, love, and dove of Jesus but that is as far as they will take him. Yet, in our world today, after years of removing Christ from society still are searching for the meaning of life. We seek it in materialism. We seek it in self-help books. We seek it in serial relationships where we shed relationships for the next one that will give us that perfect high. That perfect opiate of the people. You may take away religion from the public square but people are still searching for the meaning of life. The question of why we are here dominates our thoughts when we have time for it in our busy lives of acquiring toys. We are wired by our Creator to wonder why we are here. We are wired to seek Him. We may be misguided in what we follow but we come up with ultimately unsatisfactory answers when we seek something other than our Almighty Creator. We become cynical of promised Messiahs. We find it hard to believe that God loved us so much that He sent His only Son to be our Savior, to make us right with our Creator. But there is that God-designed hole in us that only He can fill. We can cynically dismiss Jesus as the answer but there is still the hole in our soul. It may be fashionable to dismiss Jesus now, but we still have the hole that only He was designed to fill. People are hungry for the meaning of life. As our world becomes increasingly complex and seems increasingly to be succumbing to anarchy, people are more desperate than ever to find meaning for their lives and to find meaning for our world. People, though they have their cynicism like Bartholomew, are ready for the real thing that is Jesus even though they don’t know and would not say it. They are looking for something to fill the void. Bart found it in Jesus. He overcame his skepticism about that long-awaited Messiah that he thought would never come and encountered the real Messiah. When he encountered the real Messiah, the real gospel, the real message, he shed his cloak of cynicism and followed the real answer. Aren’t many people today who are cynical about Christ simply have not been told about the real Jesus. Most have been told about the religion of Christianity but not the Christ of Chrisitanity. Why? Because no one has taken the time to get to know them and share the news of the real Jesus with them. In the absence of real knowledge, people will believe what they want to believe about Christianity. Why aren’t we telling them about the real Jesus? What are we afraid of? Philip shared the gospel with his friend, Bart, and Bart encountered Christ. Bart became a follower of Christ. Bart became a foot soldier in the expansion of God’s kingdom through the early church. What if we do not share the gospel? How much do we hate people to condemn them to hell without having shared the gospel with them? Philip was unafraid and through his sharing, Bartholomew became one of the great men of the Christian faith.

That idea leads us to the second thing that we can learn from Bartholomew. Are we short-circuiting someone’s path to the cross if we do not seize our divine appointments to share the gospel? Why is it that we are so intimidated by sharing the gospel with others? Why do we listen to that small voice in our heads that tells us not to share the gospel? Each of us knows in our hearts of opportunities that were divine appointments to share the gospel and we missed them. We shied away from the opportunity that we know was there. We listen to the voice of Satan in our heads where he says that you are not qualified. You are going to be rejected. He says what are you going to do if they respond positively to the call to Christ? He says what are you going to say then? We put huge amounts of pressure on ourselves under Satan lies that we have to close the deal if we start sharing. We think too, under Satan’s influence, that we have to have all the answers to Christian theological questions that many, if not most of us, are not equipped to answer. But yet, we forget that the Gospel is simple. We are imperfect sinners and will be judged by a holy and perfect God. In that light, we stand no chance. We need intervention. We have it in Jesus Christ. Through accepting Him as our Savior, we escape the penalty of hell that we deserve and He changes us from the inside out each day after we accept His grace. We all have our own stories of how accepting Christ as our Savior has radically changed our lives. Those stories are things that cannot be disputed or challenged. Sure, there are those who will reject the gospel message that we share, but we are not called to save, only the Holy Spirit can do that. We are called to share the gospel. What happens on the receiving end is not our concern. There is a statistic that I read in one of my evangelism classes in seminary that stated that those who accept Christ as their Savior typically have at least 8 encounters with the gospel message before they accept Christ as their Savior. Take the pressure off yourself. Share the gospel. You are part of the process of being one of those points of contact with the gospel. In some encounters, you will simply be planting seeds and will be rejected. You have planted the seed though. That’s part of the game plan. Sometimes, you will be the one there at the slam dunk moment of salvation. Regardless of whether you are there to give out the basketball or whether you are there at the slam dunk, we play our part and share the gospel. Some toil the ground. Some plant the seeds. Some water the seed in the soil. Some nurture the plant as it grows. Some are there to harvest the fruit of the plant. We must be unafraid to share the gospel, and our own gospel story. Let us not short-circuit the process by shying away from our divinely arranged appointments to share our faith. Who knows, you may be encountering someone with the gospel that will go on to be a great pastor, a great Christian author, or a great leader in the local body of Christ. Let us be unafraid to cut through the cynicism of today’s people and encounter them with the rich and real Jesus Christ. They want something to fill that Christ-sized hole in their soul that was created to be there by God. Share the good news. Be unafraid. Be bold. Eternity hangs in the balance.

Let us be Philip and share the gospel with our next Bartholomew. Who knows? That person may just well become an awesome follower of Christ. Carpe diem! Seize the day that the Lord has made for you to share your faith with a non-believer!

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