Join us as we hear about the very special and important message: the arrival of The Light of the World? What does this mean for me? How does it apply to my life today? Listen and find out!
For Humbling Us
Of all the things that get in our own way, pride is our own biggest obstacle. Why? Because it’s entirely unjustified. We are not good. We have nothing good in ourselves. We can produce nothing objectively good. Only God can do that. Only God can make us good. Only God can help us. Only God and his blessings are worth being proud of. When we start to have pride in ourselves, we need to be humbled.
Like Joseph. Joseph had gotten a bit of a big head. Dad liked him best of all his brothers. He had dreams that his family would bow down to him someday, and he was a little too happy to talk about that. And so, God humbled him. God took Joseph from his cushy place as Dad’s darling and sold him into slavery to remind him that he had no power of his own, that everything worth anything comes from God alone.
And so when we get too proud of ourselves, too confident in ourselves, we thank God that he takes the effort to humble us again, to take our power away, to show us how little we have on our own, so that we can return to the source of our real strength, God alone.
19 “Here comes that dreamer!” they said to each other. 20 “Come now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams.” 21 When Reuben heard this, he tried to rescue him from their hands. “Let’s not take his life,” he said. 22 “Don’t shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern here in the wilderness, but don’t lay a hand on him.” Reuben said this to rescue him from them and take him back to his father. 23 So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe—the ornate robe he was wearing—24 and they took him and threw him into the cistern. The cistern was empty; there was no water in it. 25 As they sat down to eat their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with spices, balm and myrrh, and they were on their way to take them down to Egypt.
26 Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? 27 Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.” His brothers agreed.
28 So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt.
For His Own Timing
In an age of microwaves, the internet, smartphones, and other marvels, life has not gotten easier because of the conveniences, it has gotten more hectic. We expect everything immediately. I sent you a message an hour ago! I can’t believe it’ll take a full day before this is ready! These expectations only make life harder on us, we only contribute to it when we expect the same of others. And even moreso when we expect it of our God.
But God has his own timetable. With a perspective of time that we can’t match and wisdom beyond our understanding, God knows exactly when the right time to act is. And despite our best efforts to advise God, the time is not always what we think it should be, which would usually be “now”. God says be patient, I have better in mind for you.
Joseph had to understand this. He probably had hopes that he could be released from prison after helping one of Pharaoh’s own. But the time was not right. We’ll see shortly, he needed to stay where he was for now so that he could be in the right place to deliver a message from God to Pharaoh and in doing so save entire nations starvation.
For Daily Bread
The land of Egypt and surrounding nations were about to be in trouble. There would be seven very good years of harvest, but they would be followed by seven years of drought and famine. Imagine being lulled into the security of seven years of abundance, growing wasteful, and suddenly it’s all taken away from you. Maybe you don’t have to imagine. Maybe you’ve had that moment in your life where it felt like all was lost. But the God of grace and mercy promises to provide. Even to people who did not know him or worship him as God. So God put Joseph in the right place at the right time to warn Pharaoh of what was coming.
We thank God for providing. We are utterly dependent on our God in all ways, but sometimes we forget just how much we depend on him daily, even hourly. We need food and drink. Shelter and clothes. And our God provides daily. We don’t earn it. We don’t deserve it, but our God gives it to us all the same. It doesn’t always come in the way we expect, but our God never lets us down. And for that we give thanks. And we show our thanks by offering part of his gifts back to him.
For Joseph, things seemed to turn out alright. Yes, he had difficulty, but now he was second in command of Egypt. Not bad for starting as a slave. Joseph could have let the power and authority go to his head, but instead he recognized that he was only where he was by God’s hand and that God had only given him this honor in order to serve a greater good, the saving of lives.
It was this attitude that allowed him to face another challenge with a godly attitude; the reunion with his brothers. He had it within his authority to have them jailed the moment he saw them, even executed if he saw fit. But he didn’t. He recognized that he was as much a sinner as they each were. He recognized that through their sinful actions God had worked a greater good as he always does. Such understanding allowed him to face his brothers without anger and instead with forgiveness.
We give thanks to God that he allows the same in us. That by his spirit he creates hearts within us that are able to forgive just as he forgave us. We give great thanks that we are pardoned by the blood of Jesus, but we also give thanks that by his power we are able to release old hurts and grudges and live at peace with those who have wronged us. What a great gift to not need to be burdened and burned up from within by anger and rage but rather to be at peace, knowing that our God worked good for us even through the hurts, and knowing that the blood of Jesus paid for the crimes against us even as it paid for the crimes we ourselves committed. We give thanks that we are able to forgive.
For Our True Home
Despite all the good that happened with Joseph’s life, there was still a problem at the end of it. He wasn’t where he was supposed to be. Egypt was fine, and his family was provided for, but this wasn’t the place that God promised his great-grandfather. As fine as the living was, Joseph knew they wouldn’t stay. And he didn’t want them to stay, it wasn’t what God had in mind for them. Sure enough, down the road that would become very clear when the time came for Moses to lead the people out.
Despite everything that we have to be thankful for here and now, all the blessings God gives us, it is not perfect. It is far from it. Every day has its own pains and heartaches and troubles. Sometimes they pile on so deep and so quickly it could lead a person to despair. And so, we give thanks to our God that we are not staying here. This is not our true home, that is still to come.
There is much to be thankful for here and reasons to be happy while here. But we give thanks that God keeps our eyes down the path, in good times and bad, looking ahead to our true home that he has promised us. It is our greatest encouragement in all parts of life, that by the blood of Jesus we have an eternity with God to look forward to.
For the Savior
You might be surprised to hear that for as much attention as Joseph gets in the Bible, he’s not actually part of the line of the savior. That was his brother, Judah. Still, his life did serve one very important purpose. His actions and intervention during the Egyptian famine ensured that his family did not starve. His brothers lived, and their families lived. And through Judah, down through the line, was eventually born David the King and through David’s line was the ancestry of both Joseph and Mary, and from them, Jesus.
God made a promise in Eden, that someone would come to crush the serpent’s head. Jesus has done this for us. By Jesus we are saved. By Jesus are sins forgiven. By Jesus is the eternal home opened to us. Without him, this would all be meaningless. All the other things we might be thankful for are just dust in the wind, here and gone. Without Jesus the eternal gifts would not exist. Without Jesus we would have pale comforts for a short time until an eternal death.
And so more than anything this evening and every day, we give thanks for the Savior. We could lose everything, have all our earthly possessions taken from us, our family dead or gone, our health destroyed and be in pain every moment the rest of our lives and we could STILL be thankful, because it will end and Jesus will take us home. Above everything and at every moment, we give thanks for the savior Jesus.
1. The Story
Even if all fall away – I will not! (Mk. 14:29)
Peter’s own words echoed in his thoughts – a type of orchestral accompaniment to the crackling of the courtyard fire. He rubs his hands together. It was cold, and it was late. But he had to be here. He said that he would.
Yes – hours ago he had fled.
Yes – hours ago he had run away.
But there were swords.
There were clubs.
There were torches.
Those men were ready to kill them all!
That’s why he ran.
But…it was just a momentary thing. He was surprised that’s all. Now he was in it for the long haul. Now he would stay put. Now he would be at Jesus’ side – no matter what happens.
TAP, TAP, TAP
Peter turned in a fright – fists up, ready to fight. “Who are you?” His eyes were at 6-foot level – expecting a big, muscular, tattooed Roman killing machine.
Instead, he had to look down.
It was a teenage girl. 13? 14? She was a servant in this courtyard. Carrying nothing more than a few towels that were folded nicely and needed in the priests’ courtroom for tomorrow morning.
“Excuse me sir…You…you also were with that Nazarene, Jesus.” (v.67)
Peter’s mind started racing. “Tell her that yes you are. Tell her that you are his disciple. Tell her what you told Jesus that you’ll stand with him until the end. Tell her that…”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” (v.68)
The girl looked him up and down one more time. Furled her brow and shrugged before she walked away.
Phew! That was close. She could have told soldiers and I could be on death trial too…but no, no, no! That was wrong. That’s not what I wanted to do. That’s not what I wanted to say. That’s not what I told Jesus I would do.
Peter shook his head as he backed away from the fire. He moved to an archway where it was darker. He could regroup. He could relax. He could – hide his face from being recognized again.
A few minutes later the same servant girl walked by again. She walked past…and then backtracked to tell a few other servants. “This fellow is one of them...I’m sure of it.” (v. 69)
Yep! She’s right. I just have to tell the truth. I just have to stand up for my Savior. I just have to do what I’d said – it’s my chance to make things right. It’s my chance to say “YES!” To say “Yes, I know him! Yes, I follow him! Yes, I am with him!”
After a moment of pumping himself up, Peter interrupted their conversation:
“No, I don’t know him. No, I don’t follow him. No, I am not with this Jesus guy.”
O-kay…the girl replied and moved along with her friends. Peter retreated to the corner. She could have ruined everything. She could have gotten me killed. Why does she care whom I am with anyways?
Because you’re with someone incredible!
You’re with a man who makes the blind see.
You’re with a man who makes the deaf hear.
You’re with a man who healed your own mother-in-law!
You’re with a man who helped you walk on water.
You’re with the man you identified as the Messiah.
Stop disowning him. Start owning him!
Meanwhile, Peter’s inner dialogue was interrupted. The people who had overheard the servant girl’s accusations were whispering amongst themselves:
I think he is.
I think I saw him at the palm celebration earlier this week.
Yeah – and he’s got an accent.
A Galilean one.
Like – one who would follow Jesus of Galilee.
Peter turned his face around and pretended to be fiddling with a mark on the stone wall.
“Excuse me, sir. But we think the girl was right. Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” (v.70b)
Peter took a deep breath.
This was it. This was his chance. This was his chance for redemption. A chance to stand by the man who stood by him.
Because Jesus never denied him. Not before he knew him – when he was a cold-hearted sinner – a foul mouthed, lust filled, apathetic about religion fishermen – Jesus didn’t disown him, but owned him.
And when he messed up, when he said stupid things, when he spoke out of turn and…sinned.
Jesus didn’t leave him.
He called him his own.
He called him his disciple.
He called him – his brother.
Now it was time to call Jesus – “his”.
Peter took a deep breath and spoke…
“In the name of heaven above, I swear to you as God is my witness that I don’t know this man you’re talking about! Leave me alone. I don’t know him. I’m not his disciple. I’m not his brother. I’m not a part of his followers. I know nothing about him! For all I know and care – he’s a criminal and he deserves the death sentence that he’s gonna get. Just leave me alone.” (v.71)
Cock-a-doodle-doo! --- Peter’s soliloquy was interrupted by a barnyard alarm clock.
And instantly, he remembered Jesus’ prediction: “Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.” (v.72)
And the crowd – backed up. “Okay. Okay dude. Whatever you say.”
Then, they left him.
And Peter was alone.
Alone…with his thoughts.
Alone…with his guilt.
Alone…just like he said.
And he broke down and wept. (v.72)
2. The Lesson
There may not be in a story in the Bible that is more human.
That is more unimpressive.
That is more…
Because I love Jesus!
I love that he’s my Savior.
I love that he’s my God.
I love that he died on the cross for me…
And I here in worship and in front of all of you, I promise I will love him, always stand for him and never deny him.
Away from worship.
Away from a crowd of Christians.
In the real world.
I see them coming.
Not torches and swords.
Angry commenters on blogs.
Disapproving looks at Starbucks.
“You’ve been blocked,” messages from former Facebook friends.
And out come the denials:
“Me? For work? I’m just a teacher – about stuff.”
“And yes…I’m’ a Christian, but not one of those. I don’t believe all those things that crazy Christians do.”
“Yes, I know Jesus said that was a sin, but he didn’t mean it. And I don’t believe it.”
And then, the guilt.
I just denied my Savior.
I just denied my ticket to eternity.
I just denied my best friend.
But that’s not the end of the story.
Because the story doesn’t end with Peter’s denial of Jesus.
The story ends with Jesus’ non-denial of Peter, the denier.
The story ends with Jesus’ non-denial of Phil, the denier.
The story ends with Jesus’ non-denial of (insert your name here), the denier.
Because Jesus could have said “I’m not dying for that dude.”
He could have said, “You aren’t my follower? Good then I’ll just go back to heaven.”
He could have said, “My words aren’t important – then I won’t pronounce you forgiven.”
But he didn’t.
He went to the cross.
He suffered for your sake.
He died in order to save you.
And now – in spite of our past denials – in spite of our past sins – Jesus does not deny you.
“This…this is my brother.”
“She? She is my sister.”
“He is my dear friend.”
“She is family.”
Jesus doesn’t deny deniers of days past; he declares disassociation of God’s denial with his drastic death.
In other words:
He forgives you.
3. What Now?
Claim him as your Savior.
Claim him as your leader.
Claim him as your brother, your Messiah, your friend.
Claim him to your family.
Claim him to your friends.
Claim him to that guy on Facebook whom you will never see again.
Claim the one who did not deny you.
Claim the one who will never deny you.
Claim the one who cannot deny you – because he’s written your name into the book of life itself.
To God be the glory! Amen.
So... how’s life? Everything cruising along just fine? Nothing troubling or difficult come up lately?
I’m going to guess that's not the case. I’m going to guess that you've got at least one something, probably many somethings that are giving you grief and potentially causing some lost sleep, robbing you of some peace of mind, and just overall taking up your time and energy that you’d rather be spending elsewhere. How are you handling that? Are you trying to face it, confront it, and put it to bed? It’ll be hard but at least you’ll have won and probably come out the other side with something good to show for it. Or are you trying to just figure out some way to get the issue rid of, forget about it, take it out of your life and move on? No victory there but at least there’s no cost to you in fighting it.
It can be a tough call when we face a challenge to balance that risk/reward relationship, to decide if the fight is worth it. There’s a branch of the path that costs us something but we benefit at the end… or we choose not to fight and there’s no immediate cost.
But there is one of those choices in our lives that’s kind of a no-brainer. The difficult side is full of hardship that you wouldn't deal with if you chose the other branch of the path. It's full of self-sacrifice, pain, and ridicule. And the reward you earn for walking it is: absolutely nothing. Plenty of pain, no gain. All you can see is that one side is going to cost you, the other side doesn’t.
When I talk here about a difficult path versus an easy one, I'm speaking of course about the difference between being a disciple of Jesus, following him, or not. Now, I’m speaking about this like it's a one-time choice but it's not. It's really a fork in the road that we face a dozen or more times every single day. We usually don't think about it in such conscious terms, but this is really what we're facing.
The moment approaches when we have a decision to make. On the one side is the path that God calls us to follow as his disciple. To think, act, or speak as he’s taught us. It’s the path that costs us something. If you go down that road, you’ll have to give up… something. You’ll have to give up some of your time or your treasures or your pride or your peace. You’ll have to endure some kind of emotional or physical pain. And at the end of that branch you will have received nothing you do not already have. No benefit. The other branch is a straight line, level ground, no trouble and it looks like it ends at the same place, but there’s no cost. So really, no-brainer.
You’re at work and overhear a conversation where a co-worker is bashing the church. He can’t stand how they’re deluding people constantly. And for what? They’re only after your money and they’re all filled with hypocrites who don’t practice what they preach. The easy path is to stay quiet. Maybe pass a little silent judgment on the person, be sure to treat them a little differently from now on. Mark that person in your mind as a fool. God’s path instead says to look at that person with compassion. To give up pride of thinking yourself better because that could just as easily be you. And to give up the safety of staying silent but rather in love inviting the coworker to come and see that they might be mistaken in their assumptions of the church. Isn’t just easier to stay quiet?
It’s payday. In fact, it’s a special payday because this paycheck has a bonus and a raise attached. The easy path is to think of all the things you can do for yourself or your family now. Pay off some debt? Take a vacation? Remodel a bit like you always wanted? Maybe just rework the budget to have more spending money each month. After all, you’ve earned it. God’s path tells you that you did not earn it. That he gave that to you. And he asks you to set aside some of the things you want to show him thanks first. To give to him in proportion to how much he’s given you. And that means giving up some of those dreams of things you want. Wouldn’t be easier just to keep it for yourself?
Someone close to you is rude. Heartless. Hurts you through indifference. And it keeps happening. The easy path is to be angry. To hurt them back. To badmouth them to others. To carry a grudge and hold a bad opinion of them. God says love even those who hurt you. God says leave justice and judgment and vengeance to him. God says to speak well of everyone, to hold your tongue even when the bad stuff is true. But God’s path means giving up your hurt pride, it means letting go of the pain and anger. It means abandoning the idea that this person is “bad”. But isn’t it easier to just stay angry at the bad people?
We face moments like these constantly, and when you look at it like that the decision seems obvious. One path costs, the other path is free. Even for the Christian, there does not appear to be a tangible reward for choosing the path that costs. You do not come out the end “more saved” than you already were. You are already forgiven, right? God already loves you, he already died for you, so... you don’t get anything more for making yourself miserable by paying the cost of his path right?
It’s a compelling argument. I hope I didn’t make it too compelling for you. It is what is whispered in our ear. It is what the devil would love for us to listen to. And it's very tempting. Don’t go that way, it’s not worth it. But it is short-sighted, in the moment, and ignores the larger picture of our salvation. Being a disciple of Jesus means carrying this cross, this cost of following him. It is a necessary part of the experience.
Jesus says as much in our Gospel that we just read. He tells us, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
So just in case it isn’t already clear, let’s start with the obvious question: What is our cross? Sometimes we like to think that it is just everything unpleasant that we endure in this life, but that’s not exactly accurate. Not that God doesn’t have something to say about those things, but that’s not really what we’re talking about here. When Jesus calls for you to take up your cross and follow him, he’s talking about the cost of being his disciple. He’s talking about what you endure, what you suffer, what you give up as a result of choosing the path that he’s on instead of the world’s.
Your cross can be as overt as the ridicule you endure from family or coworkers over the fact that you believe in some magical God who created the world in seven days. It can be as difficult as giving up your time or your money because God asks it. It can be as subtle as just giving up your right to feel like you’re justified in your anger and judgment of another person. Whatever it costs you to follow the path of the disciple, that’s your cross.
So, what makes it so necessary? After all, we say that God’s forgiveness is full and free right? Freely given, without cost or demand. And all this before we even come to know him. If the forgiveness is given first, what makes taking up the cross such a vital part of being Jesus’ disciple?
I could go into the scriptural definition and explanation, about how faith is a living gift from God and faith by its definition shows itself in actions that love God more than yourself and making those choices for God is just a natural result of having faith. But let’s maybe approach it a little more simply, in a terms that are easier to grasp with the theme we’ve been using: Disciple.
So here is the plain question: what kind of disciple are you if you refuse to follow the instructions of your teacher? What if you were learning a trade under a master and every direction he gave, you ignored it and did things the way you thought would work better instead? Not only would that make you foolish for not listening to the one who had the experience, who actually knew better, but it wouldn't make you much of a disciple either. In fact, if you kept up that behavior you probably wouldn't be retained as a disciple for very long.
That might be a little less than encouraging if you're anything like me. After all, I know how I make my choices. Sure, sometimes I listen to Jesus and accept the cross that comes with his path. But more often than I want to admit, I take the road that looks easier and costs me less. And if that’s the kind of disciple I am, one that says “no thanks” to the cross when it looks uncomfortable, then what hope do I have?
The best kind, actually. Take a look at what the Apostle Paul has to say in our reading today:
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
In a very real sense, it’s encouraging when you can’t do the work in front of you. Why? Because that's the point of Jesus. You are not the treasure, you are the jar of clay. Unimpressive, worthless, ugly. That’s okay. Because you are filled with the treasure. The treasure is Jesus.
Jesus took up his literal cross for you. He carried it to Calvary. He let himself be hung on it. And there he took up your cross. He took the real cost on himself. The payment you owed for every failure to be his disciple. Every time you took the selfish path created a debt to God. Jesus took the debt and paid it in blood. As he endured the pain of Hell itself he paid your price, he carried your cross for you.
Jesus’ death and resurrection means that in the eyes of the Father you have always carried your cross perfectly. You are filled with the treasure that he has won for you, and that treasure can never be spent out. There is always more there than you will ever need, it is an eternity of God’s treasure filling you up. The outside is attacked, there is cost demanded, but the treasure never runs out. The final part of our reading for today points out some vital truths as we prepare to shoulder our cross in the world:
13 It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. 15 All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Truth number one: we believe, therefore we speak. Faith speaks, faith shows itself. Being a disciple of Jesus means that you follow his teachings and that means even when there's a cost. Because he paid your cost. For the believer it is as natural as the sun rising and the flowers blooming.
Truth number two: outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. Here is a far more important fact about the costs of being a disciple. You are not the one paying them. Because everything God asks of you, every cost to every cross you must carry, it's all paid out of what God has given you. All you have, and all you are you have only because he's given it to you. All your time, all your treasures, all your strength within and without come from him. And so whatever the cost of following him is, he's given you enough to pay that price. However difficult that cross may look to carry, he's standing right there with you ready to shoulder the burden. It's not really on you.
And truth number three: our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. Being a disciple of Jesus is listening to him and putting what he says into action. Even if there’s a cost. Because the fact is that in his discipline, he is the master. He knows the best ways. He knows what will actually spare you the most pain and bring you the most blessing. You just might not be able to see it.
So instead of looking at what the paths might look like to you, we trust his judgment. We fix our eyes not on what is seen but what is unseen. Jesus has shouldered your cross. He continues to give you everything you need to bear it. And his path leads to eternal glory in heaven. Don’t trust what you see, trust the one who saved you. So what now? You’re a disciple of Jesus. Pick up your cross, go out there, and follow him. Amen.
John was excited.
Jesus was really on fire today. He was making some awesome promises and giving these people some incredible things to think about. Like a divine Presidential candidate, he was firing on all cylinders – He promised eternal life. He promised forgiveness. He promised peace with God.
This was good. Because, as much as he loved his friends, it would be nice to get some new blood in there. 12 just wasn’t a lot and there were only so many times he could listen to Peter’s best fish stories. They could use some more followers.
John turned around excited to see how well this speech was going.
He was shocked. Some were shaking their heads. Many had looks of disgust on their face. Others were leaving. The fast expanding hollowness of the synagogue picked up every last footstep as it left the building.
Why? Why were they leaving?
I. Too Tough to be True?
Take a look at what verse 61 says, “On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” Notice it says, “Many.” As opposed to just a few, there were many. The majority of the people there in the synagogue listening to Jesus, didn’t believe him.
It wasn’t like the crowd was filled with just Jesus’ enemies either. It says “many of his disciples.” Not the Pharisees who planned his death. Not the Sadducees who supported his death. Not the teachers of the Law, not atheists, not evolutionists, not polytheists. It was people who were following him.
They called Jesus’ teaching tough. That was their explanation. “His teaching was too difficult.” Why was it too difficult for them? Here are a few reasons:
1) Because of Who Jesus Was
Jesus was a regular Jewish guy. He was a carpenter. He wasn’t rich. He didn’t have a degree. He wasn’t even a Pharisee or a Sadducee. He didn’t have a title. He didn’t have a degree. He didn’t spend years out on a mountain searching for the meaning of life. Nor did he hide in a monastery for 15 years of silence nor is there any record of him being a Big muscular, Mr. Universe, strongman type.
Jesus appeared to be so…plain.
Do any of you know who Arielle Barill is? She is an 11 year old girl who appeared on America’s Got Talent this season. Her audition is very interesting. She entered the stage like so many had before. She looked very plain. Nothing fancy. Probably after a long dryspell of talent the judges were a little restless. “Go ahead” they say without a lot of confidence that this will be worth their while.
Then, she opened her mouth. She sang some of the most beautiful opera I’ve ever heard – and I don’t even like opera! She looked like nothing, but she was something.
Same thing with Jesus. Jesus looked like nothing but He was everything. Yet people only saw the ‘nothing.’ So they disregarded him.
The same thing might be happening with you. Jesus isn’t a flashy politician. He isn’t a respected talking head on Fox News. He isn’t a cool rapper. He isn’t a famous movie star. He doesn’t make it into People on a weekly basis. He doesn’t have as many followers on Instagram as Kim Kardashian.
He’s a guy who lived along time ago and was sentenced to death. Do we really want to listen to Him?
God forgive us for trusting our sight more than your Word.
2) Because of What He Taught
The second reason they were having problems with Jesus couples with the fact that Jesus didn’t look like much. What he taught was very tough. Below are just a few of his incredible, audacious statements:
· v.35 I am the Bread of Life…whoever eats of me will never go hungry again
· v.39 God wants me to raise up believers on the last day
· v.40 I will raise them up on the last day
· v.47 All who believe (in me) have eternal life.
· v.50 I am…from heaven.
· v.53 You must eat of me, if not, then there is no life in you!
When’s the last time you said something like that? When’s the last time you told a coworker, “You went to Cousins Subs? They’re good. But if you want a sandwich that really fills you up, take a bite out of me!” Or have you ever written down on an application for a credit card that your address was “Heaven” and your birthday was “before eternity"? Or have you ever went to visit a relative in the hospital and said, “If the doctor’s don’t do a good job fixing you, I’ll bring you back to life when it’s over."?
Can you understand why these statements would have been shocking to the people at Jesus’ time?
To be honest, they are still shocking today. People treat them accordingly.
Ever heard of the Thomas Jefferson Bible? It’s pretty interesting. Jefferson took the four Gospels--Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and developed a chronological, comprehensive telling of the Gospel story. All four books rolled into one.
I got my hands on a copy the other day. I skimmed to the end. Wanna know how Thomas Jefferson’s Gospel ends? “They laid Jesus in the grave and rolled a great stone in front of it.”
Did you notice something about that? Is it missing anything? Maybe an incredible earth shattering event three day later where Jesus rises from the dead and appears to over 500 people in a variety of places, at a variety of times, in a variety of ways.
Thomas Jefferson deleted that. He didn’t believe it. In fact, he deletes every miracle in the New Testament and every reference of Jesus to himself as the “Son of God.”
That’s Jefferson’s Bible. But…what about your version? What offensive parts have you dropped? What embarrassing truths do you hide? What ‘intolerant looking laws’ do you ‘fail to mention?
God forgive us when we trust our own sinful reasoning more than the surety of your promises.
3) Because of Peer Pressure
Of course one of the biggest reasons that so many people leave Jesus at this time is probably not their own opinion, but the opinions of others.
You’re sticking around and listening to Jesus? I don’t know who’s a bigger lunatic? You or him.
You’re buying what this guy is saying? You’re stupid.
If you are going to hang out with him, then know that I am not going to hang out with you.
Following Jesus was not the cool thing to do. Not then. Not now.
Tell me if this doesn’t happen to you on Facebook:
Hmmm. Let’s see. What should I post today? I’m really thankful that God has made this day, but…I don’t want to offend my angry atheist cousin. I did really like that devotion, but it implied that the Bible was right in teaching homosexuality as a sin…I don’t want to lose any friends. There’s a nice photo of Jesus with the children, but I know Uncle Joe will just leave a rude remark. Hmmm. Hmmm. I know…. Funny cat video.
Peer pressure’s a tough thing.
God forgive us if we let it affect our faith in you.
4) The REAL Reason
Of course – Jesus wanted the crowd –and us—to dig deeper. Listen to what Jesus says in verse 62 “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before!” I love that first part. “Do you find it tough to believe that I am the Son of God? What about when I lift off of the ground before your very eyes, a glorious light shines from above, cherubim and seraphim escort me into the divine halls of heaven itself? Would you believe then?”
But then look at verse “63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing.” Stop trusting your own sinful reason. Your own sinful eyes. Your own sinful peers. Stop trusting your own sinful self. Because (this is key) your own sinful self doesn’t even have the capability to believe. “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”
In other words – the real reason that humans pass up the most glorious, incredible, life giving, sin forgiving, guilt removing, God’s love proving message of all time is IT’S WHO THEY ARE!
Think about it. Humans are sinners. All of us. Sin means rebellion from God. Sin doesn’t believe God. Sin refuses to trust God. Sin does not believe.
On our own, that's what we are. Unbelievers. And what does unbelief do? It UNBELIEVES. It convinces itself it doesn’t need a Savior and it doesn’t need saving and it’s doing just fine. Unbelief rejects Jesus’ teachings!
Here’s where it gets interesting. The word used for ‘teaching’ here is logos. It’s a Greek word that means “word” or “teaching.” This is the exact same Greek word that the Apostle John earlier in this very Gospel used to describe Jesus. “The Logos.”
This means that the people were rejecting not just Jesus’ teachings – but Jesus himself! When we reject Jesus’ teachings – we reject Jesus himself!
God forgive us for our rejection!
II. Too True & Too Marvelous to be Too Difficult!
The doors of the synagogue shut.
Jesus stared off in sadness. He had spoken the truth. He had told them of sin. He had told them he was the Savior. They didn’t believe them. It hurt. It hurt him now; it would hurt them later.
He turned around, wiping away a tear, and was shocked. There they were – Peter, Andrew, James, John, Thomas, Matthew, Philip, Bartholomew, James, Jude, Simon, and Judas. His 12 friends. His 12 disciples. They were still there.
67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
For the disciples, this faith was too true to be too tough.
1) Because of Jesus’ Words
Listen again to Peter’s two reasons. First he says, “You have the words of eternal life.”
Has anyone here seen the show House? It’s an interesting show. It’s about a Doctor who has a terrible bedside manner. He is selfish. He is rude. He isn’t any fun to work with.
But people come to him – far and wide. Why? Because he is brilliant. He solves medical mysteris that no one else can!
Jesus solves medical mysteries that even House can’t solve. Jesus solves sin. Jesus solves death. Even if coming to Jesus means that you have to admit some difficult things, He is worth it.
Like the Brussel sprouts I used for the kids devotion. They are bitter. They don’t taste great. (In my opinion, mom.) Yet they bring great health benefits. The same is true with Jesus. If we swallow the bitter pill that says, “I am a sinner; I need a Savior; You Jesus are that Savior.” The benefits are incredible!
It starts with forgiveness right now. To hear your Savior speak to your sinful heart and say, “You are forgiven. You are forgiven for rejecting my teachings. You are forgiven for falling to peer pressure. You are forgiven for doubting me. Be at peace. We’re cool. I will always love you.”
The blessings continue in heaven.
Ever had a sliver? Slivers aren’t cool. They hurt. They can be a bother to get out. You might use a tweezers or a needle. My mom used alcohol – it felt like torture.
There are no slivers in heaven. In heaven, arthritis is no more. Kidney struggles are gone. Terrorism is conquered. Hate is removed. Racism is non existent. Fear is too afraid to show its face. Guilt is evaporated. Sin is unwelcomed. The devil is banished. Death is dead!
2) Because He is the Son of God
Peter continued, “We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
For Peter – maybe it was earlier that very morning, when they were stuck on a boat in the middle of a stormy lake and they saw Jesus come walking towards them on top of the water! Or maybe it was when Jesus called to Him and enabled Peter to walk on the water as well. Or maybe it was the feeding of the 5000 that had happened just before that with a few loaves of bread and two fish. Or maybe it was the miraculous healing of the blind man, or the deaf man or the lame man or the leprous men or the boy who had an evil spirit or his mother-in-law who had a fever.
Jesus had convinced the disciples he was the Son of God by doing things that only the Son of God could do!
Including speaking the Word of Life. Literally. Whether it was “Little girl, get up!” as he grabbed the dead girl's hand and returned her to her family alive. Or “Young man, get up!” as he helped him off of his coffin in the midst of his own funeral procession. Or “Lazarus, come out,” as he called into the grave that Lazarus’ dead body had been placed into almost a week ago. Or when he said, “Destroy this body in three days and I will raise it again.” They did...destroy him. Three days…did pass. He did….rise again.
Jesus spoke the Words of Life, because he was the Son of God! Trust Him.
Your evolution profession? Not God’s Son. The angry atheist blogger? Not God’s Son. The LGBT activist? Not God’s Son. Your doubting family members? Not God’s Son. You? Not God’s Son. Neither are your feelings, your reasons, or your desires.
Jesus is! Don’t choose to follow an ‘easier’ teaching; choose to follow the only teaching.
Because, and this is incredible, look at the last thing Jesus says to his disciples, “Haven’t I chosen you?” This is strange. Usually you stroll down the grocery aisle and you choose what kind of bread you want to take home to your kids.
But Jesus? He chooses you. Rather…he has chosen you. He has chosen you to hear his message of Grace. If you have faith in Him, then know that he has chosen you to be his child. He has chosen you to live. He has chosen you to be His.
Trust Him. Trust Him, because what he has to say is too true and too marvelous to be too tough.
I have this app on my smartphone called "ToDoist." It keeps track of tasks that I am going to do each day of the week. Each time I finish a task, I swipe it off as complete.
This past week I didn’t get much done Monday-Wednesday. I was at a Pastor’s Conference in New Jersey. It turns out that 18 hours listening to corny jokes from 5 other pastors is not conducive to getting a lot of work done. So my Todoist list had stock piled. But, as I looked at it again and again Wednesday evening, I was confident that I had a good plan for getting all of my tasks done the next day.
Then, Thursday happened. An unexpected meeting here. A longer phone call there. A few conversations that lasted a little longer than I thought...and suddenly, my Thursday Todoist "to do list" looked the exact same as the Friday list...only with few more tasks than before.
I had such a good plan to get everything done, but it failed.
Ever happen to you? Ever plan to do something only to watch your plans fail?
Did you know that God plans too? In fact, while Jesus was on earth he told his disciples about God's plan. John 3:16 gives it to us in a nutshell: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life."
But then, Jesus died. Life happened. Death happened. The question is: Had God's plan failed? Can God’s plans fail?
I. When God's Plan Appears to Fail.
This appears to have been the basic premise of the disciple's conversation on the Road to Emmaus. Scripture tells us "They were talking with each other about everything that had happened." And later "That their faces were downcast." Their Messiah had died. God's plan had failed. They would never see him again.
Then, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them.
But what's interesting is that Scripture says: They were kept from recognizing him. It isn't like Mary Magdalene whose grief and tears prevented her from recognizing her Savior. They were kept from recognizing him by God. By Jesus.
Why did Jesus do that? Presumably for two reasons:
1) He wanted to give them an opportunity to voice their faith. Think about Adam and Eve in the Garden. God asks, "Where are you?" Not because he didn't know, but because he wanted to give them a chance to fess up to their sins. At the feeding of the 5,000 Jesus had asked Philip, "How will we feed these people?" Not because he didn't know that he was about to perform a miracle, but because he wanted to Philip to voice his confidence in that miracle.
Jesus is doing the same thing with the Emmaus disciples. He wants them to have a chance to voice their faith in God's plan.
But just like all those other times, the Emmaus disciples don't voice faith. They only voice their disappointment with God and his plan.
They explain that they were talking about: “Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”
Isn't it interesting? They mention the third day, a part of God's plan to raise Jesus from the dead. They mention the women seeing an empty tomb. They mention that a few disciples had confirmed this. But they still did not believe God's plan had worked. Look at verse 21. It's most telling, "We had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel."
As in: "They didn't believe it anymore. The plan didn't work. They were still under Roman rule. Their lives still felt the same. In fact, they were probably crummier. They had wasted time and effort believing this Jesus was a part of God's plan, and now that plan wasn't working."
Ever felt disappointed with God? Ever felt like God's plan has failed you? Maybe it sounds like this:
"I was supposed to have a career! I was supposed to climb up the corporate ladder. Instead, I'm stuck in my first job at a pay rate much lower than I expected and I don't have any hope of climbing out of it. God, your plan, must have failed!"
"God, I thought, you "knew the plans you have me, plans to prosper and not to harm me..." Then, why can't I find the right guy? Why am I still single? Why are all the people I date 'Sleazeballs?" God! Your plan is not prospering, but harming me!
"My marriage isn't happy all the time. There is tough stuff we go through. God. That can't be your plan. Which must mean that your plan has failed!"
"My relative is super sick. They are suffering. God is love. He doesn't like suffering. Which can only mean that he can't stop the suffering and his plan is failing!"
Now. Stop and think with me. Is God that bad at planning? Is the ruler of all eternity that poor at future planning? Of course not.
Listen to this carefully. God’s plan’s don’t fail, we simply fail to see God’s plans.
II. We Simply Fail to See God's Plan
This is exactly the problem that the Emmaus disciples had. They expected God's plan to be that Jesus would rid them of Roman rule, they themselves would become officials in his kingdom, and life on earth would become 'awesome.'
When Jesus died and this didn't happen, they felt terrible.
But listen to Jesus' assessment: 25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
If you wanted to build a house, an architect makes a blueprint for the contractor and everyone he works with to follow. If they want to know where the support beams are supposed to be, they look at the blueprint. If the electrician is wondering how many outlets to run in the living room, they look at the blueprint. If the homeowner has a complaint about the window sill being placed too low on the wall, they look at the blueprint to see if it's valid.
A second reason that Jesus didn't show himself to these disciples right away is that he wanted to teach them where to look for God's plan. He wanted to show them the Almighty's Divine blueprint. It showed them, at that time, the Old Testament Scriptures which contained a detailed explanation of God's plan.
Through the prophets God gave his people details about the coming Savior so that they wouldn’t miss his coming. Malachi said where Jesus would be born. Zechariah foretold how Jesus would be betrayed for 30 silver pieces. Psalm 22 detailed how he would be crucified, how they would cast lots for his clothes.
Various scriptures talk about God's son had to die. Which in reality as it happened, must have seemed awful. But it needed to happen. It was God's plan. Isaiah 53 explains it beautifully. Memorize this passage. Commit it to memory. He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
This is God’s greatest plan. He desires to save you from hell. He wants you in heaven. So, no wonder, he doesn’t always take care to make sure that you have the roomiest house, the fanciest car, and the big scholarship to school. When push comes to shove, God wants you in heaven! That’s his goal. It’s his plan. It’s his desire!
When the disciples realized that Jesus’ death was a part of this plan, do you know what the result was? Verse 32 reports that the disciples confessed: “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
What had changed? The Romans were still rotten. The taxes were oppressive. The Jewish leaders were corrupt. What changed was that the Holy Spirit through the Scriptures had opened their minds. They understood God's plan. They understood that it had worked. They understood that God's plan was way better than anything they had imagined. It didn't just involved a perfect marriage, a good job, and the latest electronic always in your possession.
It involved eternity. It involved forgiveness. It involved escape from eternal hell. It involved the promise of heaven.
III. God's Plan is Alive and Well
Now the disciples understood something. They understood that God's plan was alive and well. But they didn't grasp exactly how alive and well God's plan was until later that night: 30 When Jesus was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.
Brothers and sisters, recognize that God's plan for you is alive and well. He lives! Because he lives, so does God's plan for you. It doesn't matter what happens in our lives. It doesn't matter how sin gets the best of us. It doesn't matter what evil can do to us! The LORD lives! Our divine planner lives AND he is still in control. And I'll tell you what...that takes trust! It takes trust cause you aren't in control.
Ever been to a financial planner? That's hard to do. You know lots about your money. You know lots about what you want to do with it. Nobody likes to be told how to plan their future.
But...I recommend you see one. Planning finances is their job. They understand economy. They understand stocks, investments, and bond value. They're professionals at planning money. It's what they do. Trust them.
God's a professional at what he does too. He's a professional at planning for your eternal well being. It involved sending his Son to die and giving him power to rise again. He knew what he was doing then and he knows what he is doing no.
I know it's hard to give up control of your life and to totally trust God. It’s your life! But consider this: He's smarter than you. He's more powerful than you. He's been around longer than you. He loves more than you. He loves you more than you.
Trust Him. His plans don’t fail. His plans are good. His plans are alive and well. Amen.