In my second year in Korea, I was invited to teach an English Bible class, and I accepted. From that time on, I have been teaching the same kind of Bible classes for the Koreans that I began then, but something has changed. I no longer teach them in English. I teach them in Korean. My Korean isn’t great, but it is enough to have conversations and tell stories. In that first Bible class I developed a method that had to be used. I was just reading the Bible with them in English and making sure they understood what they read. However, many people came who didn’t speak English very well, so I needed to draw picture on a blackboard or a white board, but there was none. I decided to buy a large art tablet and draw pictures to help them understand. I am not really an artist, but when I draw, people can tell what it is. I began doing this for Children’s Bible classes a long time ago in America, then I always drew pictures on the board so my English as a Second Language students would understand better when I was teaching English, and I have learned that even adults like to be taught with the same kinds of silly cartoon looking pictures I used to draw for children. My Bible classes are always attended, and I haven’t stopped teaching from then until now, thirteen years later. Koreans love the Bible, and if I stop teaching, they track me down and ask me to teach again.
When I did this in English, I would write easy English on the pages to try to help them understand. At one time, a young man began coming who really couldn’t speak English at all, and I began writing a lot of Korean on my art tablets, and I would say it in English, then say it in Korean. It got hard to do it in two languages, so a young woman suggested I just speak in English and let her translate for him, and it worked. However, we have evolved now to doing it all in Korean because there are several members of the class who come wanting to be taught Bible, but know no English. Even though my Korean isn’t great, they understand, and if I feel like they haven’t understood, my Korean son in law or my daughter who speak Korean extremely well like to come to my Bible classes, and they will take over and explain for the others if I am having trouble. It is so nice to have someone to back me up!
Today, I am preparing to teach my class that will meet Sunday afternoon in a coffee shop. We go to a private spot in the back of the coffee shop, people order drinks, and we read the Bible together. They really enjoy my silly pictures. I guess because it helps them visualize what they are reading and understand it better. This week, we will be doing Matthew 17. I decided to share the story with you.
The story begins with Jesus leading Peter, James, and John up a mountain. Peter, James and John are three of Jesus’ disciples. They are three of the twelve who turned the world upside down, and after you see what this story is about, you might understand why their teaching turned the world upside down and why they believed so adamantly.
When they get to the top of the mountain, Jesus’ face shines like the sun. After that, Moses and Elijah appear and begin talking with Jesus. If you don’t know who Moses and Elijah are, you need to to help you understand this story better. They are prophets who lived thousands of years before Christ. If you look on one of my Spanish blogs, you will find the story of when Elijah held a competition between the prophets of Baal and God up on Mt. Carmel, and of course God won. It is an amazing story, and there are many others about Elijah in the Old Testament.Moses is the one who led the Hebrews out of Egypt into the land of Promise. He was amazing too! Peter, James, and John are shocked when they see Moses and Elijah with Jesus! They begin saying, “We need to build three houses, one for Jesus, one for Elijah, and one for Moses!”
What comes next was even more shocking for Peter, James, and John! A bright cloud came and enveloped Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. A voice came out of the cloud that said, “This is my beloved son. I am very pleases with him. Listen to him.” What would you do if you witnessed something like that? It was hard enough for them when they saw two men who were supposed to be dead standing there alive talking to Jesus, but now, something even more astounding is happening!
Peter, James, and John fell down on the ground with their faces down. They realized they were in the presence of God! While they were looking down, the cloud, Moses, and Elijah left, and Jesus looked at them realizing it was about more than they could take and tried to comfort them telling them not to be scared.
After that, they went down the mountain, and they were having a conversation as they went down. Jesus asked them not to tell anyone what they had seen until the people kill him and he rises from the dead. All through the chapters around this chapter 17, Jesus keeps telling his disciples that they are going to kill him, but not to worry because he will rise from the dead. You wonder what was going through their heads when he said it. He did raise Lazarus from the dead trying to prepare the people for the idea that it could actually be done. These men who followed Jesus around for three years trying to learn everything they could from him saw and heard some pretty amazing things, and they had trouble taking it all in, but when Jesus actually raised from the dead, it all came together for them, and they completely understood.
Why do you think he told them not to tell anyone about what they saw until after he had raised from the dead? There is a very good explanation. He was constantly being watched by the Pharisees and the Sadducee, two Jewish religious groups. They were very skeptical about him. When they saw him do miracles and things like that, he scared them. They didn’t think he was from God. In fact, some thought he was from the devil, and they were even at the time of this story plotting to kill Jesus, and Jesus knew it. However, if he could keep too much news about him going out too fast, he would have more time to teach before they came and took him away to kill him. He was always telling people not to tell others what they saw, but most of them didn’t listen, and that is why news of him spread everywhere and often when he went into a city, the people already knew about him and large crowds came out to greet him wanting to see what he could do for them.
Anyway, when he told them not to tell anyone, one of the disciples said, “Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come before the Messiah?” They knew that Jesus was the Messiah, but they didn’t think they had seen Elijah. When they said that, Jesus said, “Elijah has come, but that the people didn’t recognize him, and they killed him just like they will kill me.” As I said, Jesus knew they were going to kill him. When he said that, the disciples realized he was talking about John the Baptist.
At that point, I give them scriptures to read to help them understand better why he was talking about John the Baptist. If you read Matthew 3:1-3, the Bible introduces John the Baptist as a man crying in the wilderness telling them to straighten their paths because the one that God promised from the Old Testament was coming. This is a direct fulfillment of the prophecy of the Old Testament from Isaiah 40:3 where Isaiah said that there would be a voice crying in the desert telling them to straighten their paths. To tell you how amazing that prophecy is, Isaiah wrote it in 740 B, C., and John the Baptist became that “voice crying in the wilderness Just before Jesus was born, and the book of Matthew was written shortly after the death of Christ in about 50- 70 A. D. In Matthew 11:10-14, Jesus refers to John the Baptist as the Elijah that was to come. This scripture in Matthew 17 is not the first time that they called John the Baptist Elijah. What it all boiled down to, if you know the story of Elijah from the Old Testament, John the Baptist had the same kind of fire and spirit inside of him that Elijah had. If you have been reading my Spanish blogs, in one of them I told the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal, and he just couldn’t be quiet even if it might get him in trouble just like John the Baptist. John the Baptist couldn’t be quiet, and it got him killed. The king committed adultery with his brother’s wife, and John the Baptist wouldn’t stop condemning the situation, and it got him killed. Elijah was constantly on the run from the king and queen during his lifetime because he told it to them straight, and they didn’t’ like what he said.
Now, you know the story I was preparing today for the Korean Bible class on Sunday afternoon. I am not finished yet, though, because we read a chapter at a time in that class, and I have to draw pictures for the rest of chapter 17 now. If you have a Bible, you could open it up and read the scriptures I mentioned. It might help you understand better. I believe in reading the Bible and getting my information directly from the Bible. I always felt like when I go to these Bible classes, yes, they call me teacher, but it is not me teaching. We are reading the Bible, and I let God teach them. I just add pictures to help them understand and give them more scriptures to read related to the ones they are reading to help them understand better.