Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
Have you ever had one of those moments of sheer terror at being caught? I mean the total anxiety panic of knowing… there is no way out of this. If you know what I mean, it was probably when you were younger? Though maybe not, contrary to what we like to think of ourselves, the youth do not corner the market on stupid decisions.
Whatever it was you were doing or did, I’m sure it was very attractive. The thought of all you could gain from going down that path was irresistible. It was so simple, required so little effort, and the benefits, well, they were pretty amazing. I’m guessing that the thought of being caught or the consequences never actually entered your mind. Maybe you had to think about one or two ways to smartly keep it hidden, but the fact that it was just wrong never really was part of the decision-making process.
At least, until you were caught.
You were… not so clever as you thought. Or you over-reached out of greed and arrogance. And if you’re remembering that moment from your life right now just like I am, you can feel the panic. Feel the fear grip your heart as you face whatever might be coming.
And that might be the worst of it. You don’t know what might be coming. I suppose it depended on what it was, how old you were and the like? Maybe privileges would be taken away. Maybe it would just be the shame of letting someone else down. Maybe it would break a relationship. Maybe it would be legal action. But the fear of knowing you’d been caught and there was no getting out of it, that tightening of your heart… that’s what I’m talking about.
Now why… why would I make you relive something like that this evening? It’s bad enough when those memories haunt us at quiet moments during the day or night. Why drag them up on purpose?
Well because that is exactly the feeling I want you to think of when you picture what it’s like to stand before God almighty and try to justify yourself to him.
To better appreciate this evening, I’d like to walk you through… well it’s a metaphor. This isn’t really how things will happen at the end, not literally. But the truth of it holds. So, imagine with me. Imagine the moment comes. Your earthly life has ended, and you are waiting to see what happens next. You’ve heard that Heaven is the place to be and Hell, well not so much.
Though there is some nervous anticipation, you’re feeling – pretty good about what’s to come. You’re a good person. You were a good son or daughter, a good spouse or a good parent. You did right by the people around you. You worked your job, you went to church, you helped those in need. This should go well.
And the time comes that your name is called. You are escorted from a waiting area into a courtroom. There is no jury, only the judge. And there are no witnesses, only the judge. God. One look from his piercing stare and it all comes crashing down. The intensity of that gaze opens your own eyes and you know. You know, and you remember everything he knows about you.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way;
The façade of goodness that you wear becomes as flimsy and fragile as tissue paper. All the selfishness that backed all those “good” deeds. All the times that the cost of doing the right thing was a little too high for you so you just walked by on the other side of the street. The secret thoughts, the greed, the lust, the selfishness, the anger, and more than any of that all the times you just thought you knew better than God.
That’s the panic moment. You’re caught, there’s nowhere to go, and you are utterly guilty. You did all of it, thinking no one was looking, no one would notice, but he saw it. There’s nothing to say in your defense. Anything you could think of in your own mind falls so flat that you can’t even utter the words.
Is there nothing to be done? You survey the crowd. Surely someone could speak up on your behalf and ask for leniency, mercy, or just to ask the judge to let this one go? Someone some authority or power or charisma or money could maybe do something for you…
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
A man does step forward. Not the one you were looking for. He is not wearing anything fancy. He has no regal bearing about him. You do not recognize him as anyone rich or influential. He instead looks like someone in as much need of help as you are. If you were not simply frozen by the terror of the moment you might motion for him to blend back into the crowd.
Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows,
He draws the judge’s attention. The man speaks.
“I did it.”
“Every charge you are about to read. That was me. I openly confess to every one of those crimes. I did it.”
“You are aware of the punishment?” the judge asks.
“I am. It was me.”
The confession is accepted. The man is bound and led away. What could you do? It might seem dishonorable to let him go in your place, but the terror of what waits at that end is too much to face. You let him go.
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;
You know what it means for that man. You know what you were expecting. The terror of hell itself. That the mercy and grace of God would be completely cut off from you. Absolutely lost in the outer darkness where there is no light and no hope and nothing but terror and pain forever. Maybe you didn’t grasp it before but you do now. That’s death. To be cut off from the source of life and creation is death.
It should’ve been you, but it wasn’t. What he suffers is of your making, no mistake. You earned and created the hell he is suffering now. You can’t help but stare at the door they led him through. It’s conflicting. You’re haunted by what he suffers in your place but there is still relief that it won’t be you.
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
As you muse, the judge speaks again.
“The guilty party having confessed and punishment rendered, the accused is declared not guilty. With no outstanding accusations, you are free to enter the Kingdom of God.”
Dumbfounded, you step forward. Heaven? You started with confidence you had no right to. It was quickly crushed and for what seems like an eternity you stood there with no hope, trying to accept the fact that you were going to die. And now so quickly that has changed to heaven? It seems so impossibly unlikely, but it’s happened.
You walk to the exit of the courtroom and the entrance of the kingdom. The reward is not just a perfect kingdom, it’s a perfect you. The last remnants of evil within yourself are stripped away and now you not only live in a place that will never cause you pain – you yourself will not be the cause of your own pain anymore.
This is your end. The eternal, loving, unchangeable God as your perfect king. The one who cares for you perfectly. You, made perfect, and living the life you were meant to live from the beginning. All the things from before that gripped your heart with fear are just… gone. There absolutely cannot be a better end. And this is your end.
And what of that man that so boldly confessed to your crimes? The one that was led away to die in your place?
Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
He lives. He is your king. He is the judge. He is your God. He died. He lives. You live.
Today we want to learn about the events of Palm Sunday. Our goal is to better understand the big celebration then and now… Before we do that, a prayer: Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; our ears to hear what you want us to hear and our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. The Story of the Shouting
The lesson we are looking at is from Mark 11:1. As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany…Jesus said to his disciples, “Go…you’ll find a colt…bring it here.” (v.1-2)
Geographic note -- Jesus wants his disciples to stop near before they get to Bethany and Bethphage. Both are located a few miles outside of Jerusalem. Which is a bit strange. Why not finish the journey and get to Jerusalem?
The answer – a colt.
Now remember: Not everyone owned a car back then. In fact, no one did. They weren’t invented yet. You either walked or rode a camel or a horse…or a donkey. And when you weren’t riding that donkey, you’d park it on the side of the road and tie it to a nearby post.
So, do you understand what the disciples are hearing from Jesus? It’s like the Fast and the Furious – only Slow and not so Furious – and instead of Vin Diesel? Jesus. (Less tattoos – more miracles).
And...if anyone asks what they’re doing, because it’s a small town and everyone knows what type of animal everyone else rides. It’s like Ms. Ethel who lived near me in the town I grew up – and also knew that I drove a red Chevy Minivan and also that I drove a bit fast down the road last Tuesday evening. “If anyone asks you why you are doing this, tell them: ‘The master needs it.’ “(v.3)
Imagine you were one of the disciples. How would you feel about this request?
Does Jesus know the guy?
Is Jesus trying to test them?
Is this some kind of hidden camera show?
Jesus is the guy who told the blind guy to see….and he did.
Jesus is the guy who told the lame man to walk…and he did.
Jesus is the guy who told the dead girl to come back to life…and…she…did.
The two of them walk into the city. They notice the donkey tied near a pole in front of the house just as Jesus had told them. They also the neighborhood watch (aka nosy neighbors) looking on.
They make they way over as nonchalantly as possible. They act like they notice some litter on the ground; they start to untie the rope; one of them starts sneezing as a distraction.
It doesn’t work. The people surrounding begin to question: “What do you think you’re doing? That’s not yours! Hey Ezekiel! I think they’re stealing your donkey.”
Suddenly, the owner – I imagine a bigger, muscular man – shows up from around the side of the building. He happens to have a few chains in his hand – which he’s pulling tightly together as he walks. The other bystanders – also decently sized – make their way over to the scene until they’ve surrounded the disciples and cut off escape routes.
What do you think you’re doing? That’s my donkey.
The disciples look at one another.
One of them drops the rope and mutters:
“Get ready to run.”
“Ummm…the master needs it, sir.”
“Oh. Jesus? Why didn’t you say so! It’s yours. I hope he has a wonderful time on it.”
And the disciples breathe a sigh of relief. It’s amazing what people were willing to do for Jesus…
They make a few jokes with the crowd.
And they throw their coats on the back of the colt as a makeshift saddle.
And a crowd of people has gathered to watch them.
And the disciples walk out of the city towards Jesus…
And the crowd follows them.
And they get to Jesus.
And so does the crowd.
And Jesus sits upon the donkey.
And he begins riding toward Jerusalem.
And they follow.
And…suddenly, some of the crowd starts sprinting to get ahead of the processional. As they run, they are removing off their jackets and throwing them on the dusty Roman road. Others notice that the coats will only last so long, so they start breaking off Palm branches from nearby trees and ad them to the makeshift red carpet.
Meanwhile, people at the city gate hear the crowd coming and make their way to the road – adding their coats and joining the Palm branch road construction.
All the while, the people begin shouting: “Hosanna! Hosanna to the Son of David! Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
People start clapping.
People start shouting.
People start dancing and waving palm branches to the beat.
Some (like me) don’t quite get the beat.
But it doesn’t matter. Jesus is here!
And the commotion is loud enough that more and more people join the procession.
They drop their coats, grab palm branch, start dancing and singing Jesus’ praise: Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest.
Until it’s a mini-parade.
It’s a full-fledged parade.
II. The Story Behind the Shouting
It’s amazing what people will do for Jesus. The celebration is on the level of Mardi Gras and it’s totally spontaneous. What I mean is that when I go away from Raleigh for a while and then I drive back into town…the only thing that greets me is rush hour traffic.
But Jesus gets a spur of the moment parade?
Look at what they’re shouting. I think the answers are there.
1.Recognition of Jesus’ Authority
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. (v.9) In case you are wondering, “the name of the Lord” is not the name of tunic brand Jesus was wearing. He wasn’t “in the name of the Lord” like someone comes “in Gucci.”
The phrase means that Jesus is God’s representative.
It means that Jesus comes with God’s approval.
It’s like the Papa John’s delivery guy coming to your door. He comes in the name of Papa John’s. He comes with their approval and with their pizza. He can answer your questions based on what Papa John’s offers its customers – and his answers are as legal as if they were coming from Papa John himself.
It’s the same thing with Jesus.
He came in God’s name.
He spoke in God’s stead.
He came with God’s approval.
The proof? A hat with God’s insignia on it isn’t enough.
How about controlling weather with your hands?
How about producing bread out of thin air?
How about making a blind guy to see simply by telling him to?
That’s the stuff only God could do.
It means Jesus has authority from God.
2. Recognition of Messianic Lineage
In Matthew 21, the crowd is recorded as shouting, “Blessed is the Son of David!” (Mt. 21:29) David as a very famous king in the Old Testament. He’s the young boy who took a sling shot and defeated the giant Goliath with one stone to the head. He’s the guy who became king and transformed Israel into an Ancient Super power. He’s also the guy to whom God promised that one day the Messiah – the Anointed One – the Savior would come from his family line.
Jesus is David’s great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, grandson. That’s not important because he had a famous ancestor. It’s important because these people believed him to be the Messiah.
They knew that he was born in Bethlehem just like Scripture said about the Messiah.
They knew he was born of a virgin just like Scripture said about the Messiah.
They knew he made the blind see, the deaf hear, and the lame walk; just like Scripture said about the Messiah.
They knew he was the one who would save them – just like Scripture said.
3. They Recognized Jesus’ Kingdom
Check out verse 10: Blessed it the coming kingdom of our father David.
Granted – for some – they incorrectly thought this meant Jesus was here to beat up the Romans and put Israel back on top.
But for many – they saw correctly:
That Jesus would bring forgiveness of sins.
That Jesus would bring peace with God.
That Jesus would restore them to God’s kingdom.
That Jesus would bring eternal life.
That Jesus would bring each of them to heaven.
Cause that’s the kingdom of David.
It’s a kingdom in which there isn’t any political power struggle.
There isn’t fake news.
There isn’t bickering and fighting.
There isn’t violence and destruction.
There isn’t racism, terrorism, or elitism.
There is peace. There is joy. There is life.
Each of these statements is a statement of intense faith.
Each statement is a statement of belief in the invisible.
And yet this crowd shouts it!
Coats on the ground in unison!
The reason that these men and women do such a thing is that they believed.
They believed Jesus was from God.
They believed Jesus was their Savior.
Which is what we believe.
Why aren’t we shouting like that?
A while back, there was this guy who attended worship that whenever he attended worship, he looked like he was having the worst time in his life. He looked disgusted as he listened to sermons. He rolled his eyes during sermon parts. His signing of hymns sounded a lot like this: “praise…God…blessings…flow.”
I figured he wasn’t a very emotive guy.
I figured he wasn’t a very expressive person.
I figured it wasn’t that big of a deal.
Then…On Facebook…a post. He went to the UNC-Duke game.
And the excitement! The screaming.
The video in which he was filled with emotion, expressing his feelings and singing – a song – he made up – about how awesome UNC was!
What’s the deal? Because he’s not the only one like this.
I admit – I have times like this. When I’m just not that excited…
And I’m not just talking about the volume of a voice in worship.
Cause it’s easy to sing real loud here and then go out there – and never mention Jesus’ name except as a swear word.
You can be sure to invite all of your friends to the bar – but pastor has to pull teeth to get me to invite someone to worship.
You have no problem talking about why that team will win the Final Four – but grab a beer, chug it, and run away from the conversation as soon as “God” is mentioned.
What’s the deal?
(1) We don’t recognize who Jesus is.
In spite of all the miracles, all the prophecies, all the eye witness accounts written down for you and me. In spite of all the sermons, all the literature, all the New Testament passages explaining Old Testament prophecy. In spite of all times God has brought it before our eyes – we – even the best of us – even the pastors of us – we still find ourselves saying, “Hmm…He might be the Savior…”
Divine forehead slap.
(2) We don’t care.
This option is considerably worse. Because if you find yourself in this area, then you might even see that he’s the Savior. You might see how he fulfills prophesies. You might recognize that Jesus was something very, very, very special who deserves careful thought and attention.
But…you don’t care.
I gotta make money.
I gotta get in a relationship.
I gotta have fun.
Foolish. None of that lasts.
None of that gives forgiveness.
None of that gets you to heaven.
Thankfully – Jesus knew exactly who you were.
Have you ever heard of Nisan before? Not the car maker – the month. It’s the Nisan with one “s”. Nisan is the seventh month in the Hebrew calendar. It takes place in spring and it is a festive month. Nisan is the month that the Jews celebrate Passover.
Passover is a special meal in which the Israelites celebrate their freedom from Egyptian Slavery. Briefly – God sent a man named Moses to the Egyptian Pharaoh – and asked for the release of the Jewish people. When Pharaoh said no, Moses said, “If you don’t let the people go, God will send a plague.” And Pharaoh sent him away. What occurred next would send a plague – turning all the water of Egypt into blood, sending armies of locusts, frogs, gnats, hail, even lice.
And at the end of each plague, Pharaoh pleaded with Moses, “Please, pray to God to take the plague away.” And…Moses prayed, God relented, and the plague was taken away. Only to have Pharaoh say, “Just kidding. You’re still our slaves.”
Finally, God warned Pharaoh about a final plague. A plague in which he sent the angel of death to take the life of every firstborn son residing in Egypt unless he let the Jews go. This plague would occur to every family – and every firstborn son would die, unless you trusted God. Then, you would take a lamb…shed it’s blood…and paint some of that blood on a wooden frame. When the angel saw that blood – he would “pass over” that house and the child would live.
Passover was a celebration that remembered this important event.
But there’s another important day in the month of Nisan. The 10th of Nisan. Look at what God told the Israelites in Exodus 12: On the tenth day of this month each man is to select a Passover lamb to be a sacrifice for his family. (v.3)
Do you see the connection?
In the year of the Palm Sunday event, the 10th of Nisan is Palm Sunday.
Palm Sunday is the day of selecting the Lamb for the Passover sacrifice.
Jesus is the Passover Lamb.
Jesus died as a substitute for your sins.
Jesus died as a substitute for your failures.
Jesus died – that God’s wrath against your sin would “Pass over” you.
Jesus died to save you.
HOSANNA! He saves us!
And now – God in heaven above, with all of his angels, and the witness of Jesus beside him shouts about you.
And they aren’t shouting sinner.
They aren’t shouting failure.
They aren’t shouting loser.
They shout FORGIVEN!
III. What Now?
You have been set free from sin! You are forgiven. You are promised to be a part of his kingdom. This is worth shouting about.
And I don’t mean that you increase the volume in a church service.
God wants you to unapologetically share the message of your Savior.
God wants you to unashamedly tell of His love for you.
God wants you to absolutely sing his praises in all of your life.
Even—if people start looking.
A few years back I remember watching a mom in Walmart with a kid that was being a bit loud. He was singing his song – “Jesus loves me this I know…”
And it was kinda loud, “For the Bible tells me so.”
And people were looking “Little ones to him belong.”
And his mom said, “Hey! That’s enough. People are listening.”
And the boy looked up.
And said, “Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do?”
Shout like that boy.
Wave palm branches like those Palm Sunday people.
Give up your donkey like that donkey owner.
Shout Jesus’ praises – no matter what people think.
Picture the scene. You’re standing nearby. A friend of yours has someone come up to them who starts making all sorts of obnoxious, false statements targeting them. Afterwards your friend comes over to you and says, “Why didn’t you say anything?”
Picture another scene. You’re seated near your friend. A fabricated, false lawsuit has been brought against them. So there you sit in a courtroom as the case is heard. You’re not called on to say anything at the hearing. But after it is done your friend turns to you and says: “Thanks for your support. It meant the world to me.”
You didn’t say a thing in either case. You were just there. So why the different reactions from your friend?
Isn’t this true? That…
In both cases, we see an important truth: there are instances a person “speaks”/communicates without even opening their mouth. Agreed?
Now think of your connection to Jesus, and think of the ways you face attack – ways you’re under siege to follow the one (pointing to failure to stand) and give up the other (pointing to making a stand for what is true). That’s the issue we’re exploring tonight in our Disciple under siege topic of Silence. Sound like something relevant to our lives as disciples today? Yeah.
Let’s start with the narrative of our Bible section, then move on to make application in our lives.
As we hear our Bible verses listen for which one of the two kinds of silence (noted above) we observe here in John 18:15-18. I thought I had an answer for that. But I had to take a step-back from my presuppositions and ask: “What do we know for certain, based on what God reveals here?” Take a look for yourself: (Read John 18:15-18)
15 Simon Peter and another disciple kept following Jesus. That disciple was known to the high priest, so he went into the high priest’s courtyard with Jesus. 16 But Peter stood outside by the door. So the other disciple, the one known to the high priest, went out and talked to the girl watching the door and brought Peter in.
17 “You are not one of this man’s disciples too, are you?” the girl at the door asked Peter.
“I am not!” he said.
18 The servants and guards were standing around a fire of coals that they had made because it was cold. While they warmed themselves, Peter was standing with them, warming himself too.
Ok, for the following statements that I’m going to project, choose an answer: T, F, or WJDK. Everybody understand those options? T is for? True. F is for? False. WJDK is for? Maybe if we shorten it to the texting lingo “DK” it will help. DK is for? Don’t Know. So answer WJDK if there is something We Just Don’t Know. Ok, statement #1:
Answer: We DK. We don’t even know if it was John. Even if we take it to be John, which I personally think is the case, the other gospel accounts indicate that Peter’s denial in John 18:17 goes with the description in vs.18. │So though John is with Peter in vs.16, WJDK where John is at this time when Peter is gathered with others by the fire.
Let’s do one more statement – T, F, or WJDK:
Answer: WJDK. Though some come to this conclusion, others don’t. And one small word in vs.17, which I had previously overlooked, tipped the scale for me personally on how I’m leaning on seeing John’s “silence” during this time of Jesus’ trial.
We hear right away in vs.15 that this other disciple, we’ll take it to be John, was known to the high priest and obviously also to others there like the girl watching the door. But there is more known to those others about John than just his identity. He is known at the scene this night as being a disciple of Jesus. This makes sense, right? He was seen all over Jerusalem with Jesus. The high priest’s servant girl shows that she knew this about John. It’s in the question she asks Peter. It shows up in one little word: “too.” The NIV didn’t specifically bring out this word in its translation. You see, the servant girl wasn’t just asking if Peter was a disciple of Jesus. She knew John was a disciple of Jesus, and was asking if Peter was also one of his disciples.
And so, with that snippet of info in view, we might very easily come down on the side of viewing John’s presence during Jesus trial much like this conclusion I read: “it sets up John and Peter as two very different disciples [at this scene]. John is not at all secretive about the fact that he is a disciple of Jesus—even the high priest’s servant girl knew this about him!”
And even if you’re left wondering about how to take John’s presence at this scene – because we don’t have definitive word –, here’s a place to land. A place from which to move forward. The People’s Bible commentary on this section simply handles John’s presence by leaving us with questions to ponder, questions like this:
“And John – why did he tell this part of the story of Peter’s denial…?”
This seems to be the best approach to get at the application for ourselves. Leave the issue of John’s silence posed in the form of a question. What that really can encourage us to do is: ask the kind of questions that will make concrete application for our lives. When it comes to the topic of “silence,” what we do know – with certainty – are the ways we are under siege.
I said at the outset: Think of the ways you face attack – to follow the one (silence as a failure of friendship or of standing up for truth) … and give up the other (making a stand for what is true, even sometimes by presence).
I know the different paths I’m tempted to take, and I know where I’ve failed and fallen to temptation. What are the different junctures where you have encountered temptations to be silent? Take a few moments. Either jot down or come up with a mental list. If you’re with your child(ren), talk it through with them.
Did you have any examples like these:
Or more specific to tonight’s account: to be silent where untrue comments are spoken about Jesus - about truths we know from the Bible.
The prior topic in our disciples under siege series that I shared was “fleeing” from Jesus. “Fleeing” and “silence” that fails to stand up for what is true - both deal with fear. One does something in reply. The other does nothing in reply. But both have this in common: they are failures to follow God’s will. The one: doing something God forbids. The other: failing to do something God commands.
We can’t look at this topic without seeing and confessing the times in our lives when our silence has been sin. I could have spoken more often. I missed opportunities because I was scared of people’s response, because I didn’t want to receive ridicule, because I feared the potential tension it might insert into the moment or into future interactions with the person or people involved. I confess the good that I’ve failed to do – my sins of silence are one type.
Here’s the good news. We don’t walk away tonight weighed down by our past failures. What Jesus did this night (John 18) and the next day (Good Friday) assures us of that.
Read Mark 14:60-62. We heard earlier tonight a time Jesus was silent too. Jesus was silent in reply to the false accusations brought against him. His silence is for a different reason. He doesn’t run from God’s will. He doesn’t try to defend himself; he doesn’t try to step away from all the shame and blame and punishment coming his way. He is silent as he goes about his task. He only speaks up to tell the truth of who He is: God the Son. And then He goes to complete the work for which He came: to take our sin and curse of hell. He took that all without complaint, or objection, all so that… He may loudly proclaim us as FORGIVEN at his death and resurrection.
That’s the news that gives you peace. It means peace in your relationship with God: through faith in Jesus you have the complete peace of your sins all removed.
Something else brought about at the same time is this; it’s brought through the same assurance. When I keep that relationship in view, that reality in view of the peace I have with God, it puts me at peace as I go into the world and let my connection to Jesus show. I’m strengthened with the assurance that Jesus has provided me a security that is eternal and priceless.
Every time I hear God’s good news bringing that truth, it takes away the reasons I thought I had to fear. I’m freed from feeling that my security is dependent on what people think of me. I’m filled with joy to know my connection to Jesus provides my security. And I’m set free through that news to let shine my connection to Jesus and the joy it brings me. I’m given heart and strength to give voice for the world to know: the truth of what Jesus had done, the truth that I hold dear.
May the grace of our God give us strength, peace and joy that overflows in lives – lives that they shine with our connection to Him, reflecting His love and truth for all to hear and see!
MERCY. We want to learn (1) just how deep Jesus’ mercy is (2) how deep God wants our mercy to be. Before we do that, a prayer: Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear and open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. The Story
It was all he had ever known. Darkness.
He was blind. His eyes opened. Light touched his pupils, but…no reception.
The beautiful reds of the rose bush? Darkness.
The incredible blues of the sky? Also, darkness
The warm smile of his mother? Darkness yet again.
It was lonely.
And he spent a lot of time to himself because he had never been able to get a job. He had tried his best, but…the problem was always the same.
Where to plant the seeds? Darkness.
Where to hammer the nails? Darkness.
Where the sugar was that he needed for the sweet bread? Darkness.
He couldn’t get a job.
He sat on the side of the road.
In the dirt.
In the mud.
And people treated him like they treat beggars:
“What a good for nothing.”
“Why doesn’t he get a job?”
“Oh, honey, get over here. Don’t go near that man, who knows when he last had a bath.”
He heard, and he ignored. Not because it didn’t hurt (it did), but because he needed to! If he wasn’t begging as people passed by, he might miss the handout from the 1 out of every 500 people that was willing to help.
It’s who he was.
A blind beggar.
A non-descript blind beggar that everyone knew as a non-description blind beggar.
It was a rotten life.
But on this day, he forgot all that. The conversation that he listened to in order to entertain himself on the side of the road was interesting:
“I heard that he’s on his way here.”
“Jesus? Really? Here? I wonder if he’ll do any miracles.”
“Yeah. I hope so. I heard he made a lame guy walk and a sick woman well…and a blind man…to be able to see.”
A bit later the noise became a bit louder…A murmur, the kind of commotion that sounds like a crowd, but most wouldn’t be able to distinguish voices from each other.
Not the blind man.
He heard a young lad shout: “Jesus is this way!”
He heard his mom reply, “Wait up and stay out of his way.”
He heard another gentleman shout, “Hail Jesus! Hail to the Savior.”
He heard a low grumble from off to the left, “I hope this good for nothing keeps his mouth shut. He’s no Pharisee and we’re sick of having him alive.”
And then…off in the distance…
Up on the road…
He heard HIS voice.
It was authoritative.
It was clear.
It was filled with loved.
And it seemed to be speaking directly to him.
“Repent and seek God’s mercy!”
Suddenly, without warning, the blind beggar found his voice uttering something that he had not uttered ever before: HOPE.
“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (v.38)
He repeated it:
“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
He shouted even louder:
“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
And soon, he got a reaction. Just not from Jesus.
“Shut up! You. Beggar. Be quiet. Jesus is way too busy. He’s way too important. He doesn’t have time for you. You don’t deserve his attention.”
The beggar listened to them. He nodded. He agreed. He didn’t deserve it, but…that’s why he was shouting: “JESUS! SON OF DAVID, HAVE MERCY ON ME!!!”
It continued: “Have mercy!” “Be Quiet.” “Have mercy!” “Be quiet.” “Have Mercy!” “Be Quiet.”
Until… a hush came over the crowd, as if someone had motioned for silence. Then, that voice—the authoritative, merciful one “Bring him over to me.” (v.40)
He heard a group of men running toward them. Feet hitting the dirt. Lungs panting. Voices uttering, “Quiet you! Look what you’ve done. You’re gonna get it.” As they grabbed him under the shoulders and dragged him aside.
They threw him on the ground.
He looked up – nothing but black.
“What do you want me to do for you” the voice asked. (v.41)
The blind man took a deep breath. As he did, he heard the voices chuckling in the background.
“How about a bath?”
But he ignored them.
He had hope.
He had hope in Jesus’ mercy.
“Lord, I want my sight.”
The man listened.
He heard the wind rustling the leaves.
He heard the tweet of a bird.
He heard his own heart beating abnormally fast.
Then he heard the voice:
“Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” (v.42)
And…before the man could hear the “u” in “you.” A flash of color– greens of trees, blues of sky and the white of his Savior’s merciful eyes.
He could see.
Jesus had mercy.
II. The Deep Need for Mercy
Have you ever cried out to God like this man? Have you ever cried out loud and with such reckless abandon that you don’t care who hears you?
Think about it – This man was willing to make a fool of himself!
Why? I’ll submit that he didn’t have anything to lose. He knew his situation was dire. He knew that he could never heal himself from blindness. He knew that he had nothing to offer Jesus in exchange for this miracle.
The only thing he had was a deep understanding of his own need for mercy.
QUESTION: How well do you understand your need for mercy?
The apostle Paul recorded this truth about the human heart in Romans 3. “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”
The thing is we tend to see this passage and say: “That’s right! The world is a disaster. The politicians are a disaster. The people who do thing are a disaster. Our world is a slimy pit filled with scumbags. Yes, Bible. You’re right. There is no one good, not even one.”
But…did I miss something?
Are you a robot?
Some kind of alien?
Are you human?
Then this passage is talking about you.
To say otherwise is like the little boy whose mom comes in and sees that her chocolate cookie is missing. She looks at him and he smiles with big chocolatey teeth, chocolate stained hands and a breath that smells like the Hershey’s factory. Yet when she asks, did you eat the cookie – he says, “NO!”
To say you are not a sinner is foolish.
Which means – we fit into this passage and we are in deep need of mercy. Let me read it again. I’ll change a word. “You are not righteous, not even a bit. You don’t understand. You don’t seek God. You have turned away, you have become worthless, you have not done good, not even a bit!” (Romans 3)
But pastor. That’s not me.
I’m not a drug dealer.
I’m not a lying, good for nothing politician.
I’ve not been convicted of rape and I don’t have a terrorist bone in my body!
But…you are a sinner, right?
And God is holy, right?
And holiness can have nothing to do with sin, right?
Then, how will a holy, sin hating, sin despising God let you into his kingdom?
Your sin not that bad?
Be less sinful than the other sinners?
Give him some money?
The only way you enter God’s kingdom,
The only way you have forgiveness,
The only way you get to heaven, have eternal life and can have peace with God…
…is if Jesus has mercy.
Son of David, have mercy on us!
The only thing more impressive than the blind beggar’s confidence, is his confidence that Jesus will provide mercy.
And you can be just as confident.
Because Jesus does provide mercy.
In fact, he already did.
Because, right before the events of the blind beggar, do you know what Jesus tells his disciples? He tells them this:
We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him and spit on him; they will flog him and kill him. (v.31-33)
That sounds terrible.
That sounds awful.
That sounds like it should be avoided.
You want to know what Jesus did? He went to Jerusalem!
He was delivered to the hands of Gentiles, mocked, insulated, spat upon, flogged and killed.
Why? “He saved us…because of his mercy.” (Titus 3:5)
Because he heard your cry. In the sea of the millions of billions of people throughout time and on this planet – He heard your voice and acted.
He had mercy.
He lived perfectly when you couldn’t.
He died innocently in your place.
He rose triumphantly for the forgiveness of all of your sins.
Fellow believers, you needed mercy and he gave it to you. It’s yours.
And unbelievers – don’t think that – because I didn’t realize my need for mercy until now – I can’t have it. Wrong. Jesus already had mercy and died for you. Trust in him and his mercy is yours.
And then – you will see.
You will see your Savior.
Your will see forgiveness.
Your will see your place God’s kingdom.
III. What Now
(1) Never Forget your Need for Mercy
I can’t imagine that the blind beggar did. Each day he could wake up, open his eyes, and smile. He could see! I’m sure it made him very thankful and very humble.
We can’t forget our need either. Because it’s easy, after you’ve been a believer for a long time…even a couple of weeks. The devil does this thing where he makes you think you don’t need mercy as much as you used to…
Now, you’ve been to church for a couple of months.
Now you’ve been serving in church.
Now there have been like 50 people who have joined church since you did so…you don’t need mercy as much as they do.
We are still sinners.
We still have a deep need for God’s mercy.
We will always have a deep need for God’s mercy.
Take a moment each day. Start with a prayer. Look humbly at your life. Confess your sins. Consider your need for mercy. Ask God for mercy and praise him that you have received it in Jesus Christ your Savior.
This keeps you from thinking you don’t need mercy.
This keeps you from running away from the very mercy that you so desperately need.
(2) Be Merciful
Briefly think about the disciples in this section – They tried to stop the blind beggar from meeting with Jesus. They figured that the man didn’t deserve time with Jesus.
But what they had forgotten is that they didn’t deserve it either.
And that’s the point.
Jesus’ mercy is always undeserved.
If you have it, it’s underserved.
If you are considering sharing it, don’t look for deserving individuals – the only one you’ll find is Jesus – and he doesn’t need it!
Share his mercy with the undeserved.
In other words – share it with people.
Do this right now:
Think about people that you know.
Think about the biggest sinners.
The ones that upset you most.
The ones that have repeatedly ignored your requests to come to God.
The ones that you think don’t deserve God’s mercy.
Got them in your minds?
Here’s what God wants you to do – God wants you to have mercy.
Here’s one way to have mercy:
Take an invite card.
Share the message of Jesus with them.
Invite them to Easter.
Have mercy by inviting them to hear the message of mercy – this Easter.
Because that’s what disciples do.
We share God’s undeserved mercy with the undeserving of mercy because we have received his undeserved mercy. PRAISE GOD!
May God have mercy and bless our outreach of mercy. Amen.
Guest preacher, Pastor Doug Lange shares with us a message about Judas - that we're more like him than we want to admit to. We may not formally betray someone, but every time we sin, we betray Jesus. Thankfully, Jesus never betrays us and in Him (only Him) is there forgiveness and peace from our sins.
Tonight, we take a closer look at Judas. What comes to mind when you hear the name Judas? Betrayer? Thief? Good for nothing backstabber? Knowing what we know about Judas and what he did, these names seem to fit well. But was this always the case? Remember, Judas was chosen by Jesus to be one of those twelve disciples. These were guys who had the privilege of being in Jesus’ inner circle. They talked with him and witnessed all of the miracles he performed. Jesus led them, guided them and trained them.
Outwardly, Judas seemed to be just one of the twelve, but inwardly there was a problem. His greedy heart had turned cold to Jesus’ true mission. As it became more and more apparent that Jesus never intended to establish a kingdom on earth that Judas would benefit from, he turned away from Jesus. As Jesus talked about suffering and death, Judas saw the writing on the wall. He began to plan how he could salvage something from what he thought was a dead-end street.
From that point on, Judas’ spiritual life went downhill. He stole from the small treasury the disciples had. He got angry when a woman showed her love for Jesus by pouring expensive perfume on his feet. Finally, he willingly assisted in the murderous plot of Jesus’ enemies and betrayed Jesus for the going rate one would pay for a slave, a messily 30 coins. Judas had plunged head first into the depths of hell itself. Luke tells us, “Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. 4 And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. 5 They were delighted and agreed to give him money. 6 He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present.”
As you know, Judas never got to enjoy that money. Tormented by what he had done, he tried to return it. However, he refused to look to Jesus for help and forgiveness. Sadly, hell had claimed Judas and even before Jesus was crucified for his sins, he plunged into eternity at the end of a rope.
What a tragic end to this one-time disciple of Jesus! Jesus offered Judas everything: friendship, a place among the twelve, forgiveness of sins and a place in God’s family forever. Even when he came to betray Jesus in the Garden, Jesus reached out to him one more time to reclaim him as his child. Sadly, Judas plugged his ears and closed his heart to Jesus’ offer of forgiveness and life.
As we consider the story of Judas, maybe we wonder, why? Didn’t Jesus know what Judas would become? Why would Jesus have chosen Judas, the greedy thief and potential traitor and welcome him into his midst? Our answer is Jesus’ love. Jesus came to save sinners. That included Judas, you and me.
You see, we have more in common with Judas than we want to admit. When we listen to these Bible stories about Jesus’ followers, we don’t mind being compared to Peter, the bold one, or Matthew, the grateful to be forgiven tax collector. But Judas? No way, we are not like him!
Yet, haven’t we, too, acted just like him? How often don’t we let our selfish ambitions get the better of us? How often don’t we seek the things of the world as he did? Like Judas, we are by nature sinful, and, as sinners, we all too often fix our eyes on our own earthly welfare. Truth be told, every time we sin we are really no different than Judas. Every selfish action we take, every dirty thought we have, every cutting word spoken to another, every time we neglect his words and do our own thing, we betray our Savior and deserve only his punishment now and forever. Because of our sins, Jesus should damn us right here and now!
Yet, by God’s grace this is where you and I differ from Judas. Jesus searched out Judas to the very end. He offered him forgiveness. Judas didn’t have to kill himself in despair and unbelief. But he did because he refused what Jesus came to do for him.
If you have made a mess of your life and want to know if Jesus still loves you, look to his cross and know he does. When you are confronted with your own sins and see how they have betrayed, Jesus don’t run away from him in despair as Judas. Instead, look at your Savior. See him suffering for you. Look at the cross and see how far he was willing to go to forgive you all your sins. Then listen to your Savior who has searched you out and found you say, “I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine!” Amen.
Have you ever played Laser Tag before? It’s a game where you are armed with a computerized flashlight gun that you aim at another person’s computerized laser receiver pack. It’s kind of like a backpack. What you do is you get split into teams and then you aim the laser at the targets on the other person’s pack and you get points for zapping them.
So, I was playing at Frankie’s recently. They have a giant room where about 20 people can play at once. The Red Team and the Blue Team. Our team thought we were doing pretty well. We thought that we were really zapping the other team and racking up a lot of points.
But on the scores afterwards, our team got dominated. Why? One of the little kids had been zapping his own teammates. He had a giant negative score which was dropping our total score down.
He didn’t know who was on his team.
And it cost the team.
It’s hard to have unity when you don’t even know who’s supposed to be on your team. Today we are continuing our disciple series and we’re going to discuss that key issue of UNITY in discipleship. We want to learn (1) who is for us (2) what is against us and (3) how to remain united. Before we do that, a prayer: Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear and open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. Who is for Us
This lesson starts in Mark 9:38 with a report from the Apostle John about a commotion going on up the road. He says, “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop because he was not one of us.”
A couple of notes:
First, what the man is doing, he’s doing this In Jesus’ name. That means he’s probably shouting, “In Jesus’ name.” He’s telling people, “I’m doing this in Jesus’ name.” He’s handing out bumper stickers that say, “In Jesus’ name.” His Twitter handle is @InJesusName. Everything he’s doing – he’s doing for the sake of Jesus’ name.
Which can be either a good thing or a bad thing:
Giving groceries in Jesus’ name? Good thing.
Stealing groceries in Jesus’ name? Bad thing.
Running a 5k in Jesus’ name? Good thing.
Running a drug dealership in Jesus’ name? Bad thing.
Building an orphanage in Jesus’ name? Good thing.
Building a strip club? Awful.
The man’s actions are God pleasing. He’s driving out demons. Demons are bad. Jesus is good. The Bible describes demons as angels that rebelled against God and are constantly at war with him. Jesus is God’s son who loves his Father and is constantly at peace with him.
The point? This man being opposed to demons is a good thing. He’s not misrepresenting Jesus in anyways.
And what he’s doing to the demons isn’t very easy. It says, “He’s driving out demons.” About 5 sermons ago, we talked about how very real and very powerful demons are. They are supernatural beings. They tend to defeat humans in temptation after temptation. There’s a reason that humans get very nervous when watching them in a movie.
But this man is driving them out.
He isn’t ‘’trying to drive them out.”
He isn’t “attempting to drive them out.”
He isn’t “failing to drive them out.”
He’s doing the job.
Which makes John’s tattling a bit surprising.
Is John against demon driving out?
Is he for demon rights?
Nope. Look at his reason: “I told him to stop because he is not one of us.” (v.38b)
“He’s not one of the 12.”
“He’s not one of the apostles.”
“He’s not a part of our club Jesus.”
“You hired us to be demon-caster-outers, Jesus. Not that guy! He’s out of turn!”
And at the end of this report, John must have been feeling pretty good. Feeling like he did the right thing. Feeling like he did what Jesus wanted. I bet he even had his palm open above his head -- waiting for Jesus to slap him a high five.
But Jesus leaves him hanging.
“Don’t stop him. No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us.” (v.39-40)
Think about it logically for a second:
If this man is casting demons in Jesus’ name,
And Jesus is against demons…
And this man accomplishes his task…
A task only possible if God empowers him to do so…
He’s on God’s side.
And if this man is on God’s side…
And John is on God’s side…
Then John and this man are on the same side.
And if John is opposed to this man…
And this man is on God’s side…
Then, John is opposed to God himself.
About 7 years ago when I was a pastoral intern, I remember hanging out in the fellowship area eating donuts and drinking coffee with one of the elders in the congregation. A young man approached and was really excited. He said, “I’m super pumped because I’ve got a couple of my coworkers getting together for a Bible study this week. It’s gonna be awesome. A great chance for me to share Jesus and I’ll try to invite them to church afterwards.”
And before I could say anything, the elder responded sternly: “You can’t do that. You’ve gotta run that by the elders first. You aren’t really qualified.”
I asked him why he said that. “Because he’s not an elder. He’s not a teacher. He’s barely even a member of this church.”
And I said, “Oh, that’s right. I forgot about Matthew 28. It says, “Go and make disciples of all nations– if you are one of the elders of the church – otherwise, sit on your hands and don’t do anything except clean the restrooms.”
The problem there was the same problem John had and it’s the same problem that threatens our unity today--mistaking those on our side for those against our side.
This is really John’s fault more than anything. Look again at the first verse. What is John’s reason for assuming the man is wrong? He “saw” someone driving out demons.
He didn’t talk to him.
He didn’t investigate him.
He didn’t have a conversation.
He saw (and he saw something good) and he reacted.
Guys – the problem was pride. John didn’t want to consider that someone else could even be in the club because it would ruin his own status – at least in his mind.
Don’t think it doesn’t happen here either!?! I’ve heard it before.
Hey! He can’t fix that toilet at church because he’s not part of the maintenance crew. I am!
She better not bring cookies for fellowship because she’s not a part of the cookies for fellowship group.
Honestly, their opinion isn’t really all that important because they haven’t been here 25 years like I have.
Pastor should tell them that person to stop saying “Amen” during the sermon because that’s not how we do it here – so that person should stop or get out!
Listen. “Whoever is not against us is for us.” That’s the reality expressed by Jesus himself. If someone is a believer in Jesus, they are not our opposition. They are on our side. John, that demon-caster-outer-guy is not against us, but for us. Stop opposing him!
Take a moment. Look around.
Do you see the people here today? These people – are not against us.
They are for us.
God doesn’t want us to fight with others on our side; but fight for others on our side.
Why? Because he fought for them.
Just like he died for you; he died for them.
Just like he shed his blood for you; he shed his blood for them.
Just like he shared this message of love with you; he has shared that message with them.
We are not against us – but we are for us.
II. What is Against Us
But that doesn’t mean we don’t have some opposition. In fact, there is something that’s very much a part of this church right now and was very much a part of the church back then – that threatens unity and should not be a part of his church.
What is it?
Look at the very next verse:
If anyone causes one of these littles ones – those who believe in me – to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea. (v42)
Do you know what a millstone is? It’s a giant 500 lb circular rock that was used to crush grain. The idea was that the grain would come by on an old-fashioned conveyer belt and the stone which was flush with the shelving would roll on top of it, instantly crushing it.
Millstones are great for crushing grain.
They are excellent for grinding flour.
They are super stones in the bread making process.
They are also TERRIBLE flotation devices.
Jesus says, “It would be terrible to have a giant stone like that tied around your neck and to be hurled into the sea – because you would drown.”
Do you know what would be worse?
Leading a little one to sin.
Because sin is not in unity with God.
Sin is opposed to God.
And people who lead kids to sin are not in unity with God…
…they are opposed to Him.
We aren’t just talking about having an at home school where one of the classes is: “Thievery 101.” No one besides Robin Hood does that. The reality is this subtler. We teach kids by being an example.
Otherwise, if we said out loud what we teach kids by our actions, I don’t know that we would teach them:
This morning kids we will be learning how God’s Word is important, but not as important as sleeping in and videos games.
Listen here kids – these four-letter words that I am saying – those are great ways to sinfully express your anger. Try it!
Follow my example children – Do you see how I am terribly I’m treating your mom? Yelling and screaming at her? Guess what – that’s how you should treat all women.
Our examples teach kids.
Our sinful examples teach kids to sin.
Teaching kids to sin is teaching them to be opposed to God’s kingdom.
And here’s how opposed to God’s kingdom sin is:
“If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed then to go into hell where the fire never goes out. If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to go into hell where ‘the worms that eat them to don’t die and the fire is not quenched.” (v.43-49)
By the way! It is absolutely awful to lose body parts. No one ever wants that to happen. In fact, it’s so bad that amputation is one of the last resorts in surgery – something doctors turn to only when amputation stops certain death from spreading.
Amputation is awful.
But amputation is nothing compared to being wholly amputated from God’s kingdom.
That’s called hell.
And no, don’t go home and amputate your hand. The reality is if you want to rid yourself of sin, you’d have to amputate your own heart! The point of this section is not go and do some kind of horror movie thing.
The point is that sin is awful.
Sin is dangerous.
And the only hope against sin…?
It all depends on his mercy. No amount of cutting, plucking or maiming could save us. There needs to be a wholesale removal of our entire sinfulness from our souls.
And that’s what Jesus did. He did a wholesale removal of your souls’ sins. With divine, surgical precision and accuracy, he remove the entirety of your sinful being and took it to the cross and he completely eradicated it.
Jesus has separated sin and its consequences from your body.
Jesus has separated what separates you from unity with God.
Jesus has united you with his Father’s kingdom.
Jesus has united us into his Father’s kingdom.
And now He calls us to separate ourselves from the real cause of disunity: sin.
III. What Now
(1) Fight the Real Cause of Disunity
Again – this doesn’t mean cutting off your hand, but it does mean cutting off that anger at another member of this church.
It doesn’t mean cutting out your foot, but it does mean cutting out the bad example for your children.
It doesn’t mean plucking out your eye, but it does mean looking deeply at your heart, examining your thoughts and plucking out every bit of sinful pride, envy and racism that could ruin ministry here.
It’s kind of like that pair of pants that always gets lint on it. Do you have one of those? It’s the one that you like a lot but it seems to be a magnet for doghair, lint, and little pilly things. And for whatever reason it’s always a dark color and the little pieces are light colored. Embarrassing. You get a lint roller. You get a piece of packaging tape. You go repeatedly and repetitively over that pair of pants until it’s clean.
Do that to your heart.
Ask God for wisdom and in seeing the ugly realities that are there.
Ask God to empower you to separate yourself from the things within you that divide the kingdom of God!
(2) Celebrate Unity
Because it is a pretty amazing thing that God does. He takes people with completely different background, completely different races, completely different cultures, and completely different ACC basketball teams and he unites them. He unites them in the saving blood of Jesus our Savior.
That’s worth celebrating!
To be honest – that’s how the disciples should have reacted! They should have run over to that guy, hoisted him on their shoulders and thanked him for their hard work. They had someone else to share the load with – someone else whose faith in Jesus was so strong that he felt compelled to head to demon possessed people, say nothing more than “leave in the name of Jesus,” and God worked through him to drive the demon out!
We need to be doing the same thing.
We celebrate the additions to our family.
We celebrate the guy who is excited to post invites on Facebook and the guy who passes paper invites to his friend.
We celebrate the one with vision for Precious Lambs, the technical skills to build the building and the teachers with the skills to help kids build with Legos.
We celebrate the woman who makes delicious double chunk chocolate chip cookies for fellowship and the woman who brings Brussel sprouts!
We celebrate because we’re on the same side and it’s worth celebrating that unity!
Speaking of, we have a bit thing coming up. We have this year’s Easter celebration. We have two services. We have an awesome Easter breakfast. We have an egg hunt for the kids. We have two different but incredible musical plans for the services. We have the awesome opportunity to reflect on our risen Savior AND we have an incredible chance to plant the message of Jesus in the hearts of North Raleigh.
Here’s the truth. If we’re too busy planting seeds of discord in our own home, then we will miss out.
But if we work together…
If we plant together…
If we share the awesome message of Jesus together!
This year’s Easter harvest will be one for the ages.
To God be the Glory!
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.
Have you heard of that name? She’s very famous in Santa Clara, CA. For an entire year she spent time organizing marches, leading Facebook groups, making YouTube videos to get people aware of her cause, getting petition after petition signed, meeting with the city council and protesting for the betterment of the Santa Clara community.
To bring the McRib back to Santa Clara.
This isn’t a joke. This actually happened.
And her protest was contagious. Check out some pictures of her supporters. The signs say, “Make McRib not McWar.” “Down with Breakfast, up with the McRib” and “Eat McRib”
Good news! After the protesting, Santa Clara’s McDonald’s chain – brought the McRib back.
There are a lot of protests in America today. Most have much more serious tone. There are protests for racial equality, for gun laws, and babies in the womb.
But…what about Christians?
Should we protest? If so, what? Where? How?
Today we are continuing our disciple series and taking a look at a time that Jesus protested. We’re discuss what that means for Christians today, but before we do that, a prayer: Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear and open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
2. Jesus’ Protest
Before we get going, I think it’s important that we have a working definition of the word “protest,” because the word means different things to different people. Some think of marches. Some think of picket signs. Some think of peaceful sit ins; others of violence.
But those are different types of protests.
They deal with the “how” of protesting now the “what.”
The simple dictionary definition for protesting is this: “an expression of disapproval for something.”
Take a moment and write that down, because it’s important so that we are all on the same page for the rest of this. Then, I want to take us to a very Biblical protest – one that’s led by Jesus himself. Look at John 2:
When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves and others sitting at tables exchanging money. (v.13-14)
A couple of points:
Jerusalem was the center of Jewish culture. It was the largest city in Judea and it was home to the Temple – a beautiful, ornate building dedicated to worshipping God. It was lined with gold, studded with stones and decorated by gorgeous etchings in wood and stone.
And it was around the Passover. The Passover was a celebration of when God brought the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. Since the Passover was a religious festival, many wanted to go to the epicenter of Jewish religion for the festival – hence Jerusalem being very crowded. (It might be similar to many people making their way to New Orleans for Mardi Gras or an Irish bar to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day).
And when you’re in Jerusalem and you go the temple, you are going to want to bring a sacrifice. That’s because Old Testament Jewish religion demanded animals sacrifices for sin. Not that the animals blood actually took away sins, but (1) it taught how serious sin really is and (2) it foreshadowed the death of Jesus, the Lamb of God, as a sacrifice to actually take away the sins of the world.
Practically speaking – if you want to bring a sacrifice to Jerusalem from a couple hundred miles away, it’s not very easy. It’s like taking a dog on a road trip only without a minivan and aq less domesticated version of a pet.
This was a challenge.
So…a new kind of industry developed. Situated in the temple courtyard – right before you made your way into the sanctuary portion of the temple – were a bunch of vendors. Each vendor offered animals for sacrifice – oxen, sheep and doves – whatever you needed. The idea was that this was a service – so that you didn’t have to take the animals on the long trek, you could just buy when you got there.
Can you picture the advertising?
Like a Good Neighbor Sheep farm is there.
Open range, organic, cage free doves. Because God doesn’t like additives.
Or my personal favorite: Got Oxen?
But that’s not the only kind of temple vendor. There were moneychangers there too. This is because Jews would come to Jerusalem from various countries. Each of these countries had various coinage with various worth in the world market. Money changers at the temple did the same thing that money changers do at international airports – they exchange your foreign dollar for a domestic one.
This is what was happening at the first table in the temple courtyard – it would get the money you need to buy the animals you need at a small percentage of the price.
And you know what? People liked it! It was convenient, nice and easy.
That’s why when the disciples made their way into the temple, they probably paid little attention to the sellers.
This was common. This was ordinary. This was the way things were.
But…for Jesus…something was off.
Maybe it was the:
The bleating of sheep as opposed to singing.
Or the coins going into the merchant’s pockets as opposed to the offering boxes.
Or the smell of the animals masking the incense of prayers.
Whatever it was – Jesus had had enough.
He walked over to a nearby vendor, grabbed a few cords used for animal transport and tied them together. Then, he moved to the nearest oxen stall. He threw open the gate. And…
Immediately he started corralling the oxen out of the pen. The oxen grunting and snorting as their hooves hit the ground.
People started looking. The vendor started shouting.
But Jesus didn’t stop.
He went to the next gate. He did the same.
He made it to the sheep gate – same treatment – new noises: BAAAING and BLEEETING and SHOUTING!
He ran over to the dove table and he thew open their cage doors.
People started screaming as birds fluttered overhead.
Some sought shelter under the archways.
Jesus made his way to the money table…
And scattered the coins on the floor – the talents, the kophers, the Roman coins with Caesar’s image on them…Clinking everywhere!
He flipped the table over and shouted in anger:
“Stop turning my father’s house into a market!”
And…after many of the animals had been removed.
As the bleeting of sheep grew faint.
And the feathers of the birds slowly settled to the ground.
A man – an angry man – an angry, angry man approached:
What gives you the authority to do all of this?
Jesus looked him straight in the eye.
He didn’t stutter:
“Destroy this temple and I will raise it in 3 days.”
2. Christian Protest
And there it is. Protest. “An expression of disapproval of something.” Jesus did it. He publicly expressed his disapproval for something. But…what does his protest mean for 21st century disciples? Let’s take it one question at a time:
(1) Should We Protest?
This isn’t as easy as a commandment that says, “Thou shalt not protest,” or “thou shalt protest often.” But if you head back to that initial definition of protest: “to express disapproval of something,” there’s a few Bible passages that essentially say the same thing:
Speak what is right. (Isaiah 33:15)
If someone sins, rebuke them. (Mt. 18)
Do not do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. (2 Cor. 13:8)
That’s what Jesus was doing!
The truth was that the temple was for communing with God – not making money.
The truth was that their current practices were at best distracting, at worst soul condemning.
The truth was that what was going on was wrong – and Jesus spoke.
But this isn’t the only example of protest in the Bible:
A guy named Daniel refused to pray to the King and he protested by continuing to pray to God. (Daniel 6)
Three friends refused to bow down and worship a golden statue and instead continued to worship God. (Daniel 3)
Peter and James would be told to stop teaching about Jesus or risk death – they protested by walking back outside and teaching about Jesus anyway. (Acts 4)
Yes. Protesting – expressing disapproval of something – is something that Christians should do. In fact, it’s something that Christians are commanded to do.
(2) Protest Where?
Should we head to downtown Raleigh?
A march all the way to the White House?
I think it’s interesting to consider where Jesus protested. He protested in the temple. The temple was the epicenter of Jewish religious thought. The temple is where people would have gone to learn about the Messiah!
He did not go to the Roman governor’s mansion.
He did not go to the Pilate’s palace.
He did not organize a march to Caesar’s palace.
In fact, when people asked him to –he refused.
Jesus was focused on the spiritual not the physical.
Jesus was focused on the spiritual not the political.
There’s a lesson there for us:
Before we protest out there, we’ve got to protest in here. We’ve got to protest in our temple.
And where is our temple? Is it this church? Well – we do commune with God here. That’s true. It is a spiritual place that’s true too. But before you go tearing down the greeting cards free will offering stand in the hallway – consider this passage:
“Your bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you…who you received from God.” (1 Cor. 16: 19)
In other words – before we protest out there, we NEED to protest in here.
This is a similar concept to the plank in the eye story. You’ve probably heard that one before. Jesus said, “Before you tell someone to take the speck out of their eye, take the plank out of your own eye.”
Have you ever thought about how foolish it would look to see this passage played out? To see some guy with a giant, 2’x4” coming at you, trying to avoid hitting you with the plank and leaning in to say with a very concerned voice, “There’s some sawdust in your eye.”
And it’s just as foolish to go protesting all of the ‘sins that go on out there’ when there’s plenty of sins that go on in here.
It’d be like the guy protesting the XXX club going in next door, when he’s up late watching porn every night.
Or the woman protesting racial inequality, when she won’t converse with her neighbor because, “She’s different than me.”
Or the guy that protests on Facebook the way that America has lost sight of religion and doesn’t have any relationship with God --- even though he hasn’t been to worship in about 6 ½ months.
Friends – start your protest right here.
Protest the very things that threaten to ruin your temple!
Because Jesus did.
In fact, he protested your sins so much that he took a stand against them.
A stand that ended as sometimes protests do with violent pushback from opposition.
It was a stand that ended with both feet on a little block of wood and a nail was driven through the bones of his metatarsals.
Jesus stood against your sin.
And he won!
Your sins are no more because Jesus stood against them.
Your sins are no more because Jesus transformed your temple.
Your sins are no more and Jesus calls you to protest against their return.
Protest starts here (in our hearts) before it goes out there (in the world).
(3) Protest What?
And when we do take our protest to the world – what do we protest? Here’s a simple thought:
Protest what God protests.
Express disapproval of what God expresses disapproval of.
Otherwise, you’re protesting against God.
And that’s seems unwise.
Pre protesting should be less about “what do I want” and more about “what does God want.”
If you follow that rule, you’ll take your stand accordingly.
But not all issues are so clear:
Like Gun Control. It’s been on people’s minds and rightfully so. It was horrific and awful what happened to those kids in Parkland, FL.
But over the past week, I’ve seen Christians friends say things that are going a bit farther than the Bible says:
“It’s in the Bible God said we should have AR17s. Don’t you take that right from me.”
“It’s in the Bible – God said, “if you own a gun, you’re going straight to hell.”
Neither of those are Bible passages. (It’s easy to find that out too…just Google it!)
Gun control like many issues in the social realm is a grey area issue. (The Bible doesn’t speak specifically about it).
The Bible does say that God gave us life.
The Bible does say that God wants us to protect life.
How we do that is open for debate.
But when Christians are dealing with grey area issues, the Bible has two things for us to keep in mind:
3. Think of others more than yourself.
Because a lot of times people protest against things that they don’t like.
“I am protesting this tax because I don’t like that I have to pay more.”
“I am protesting this person in government because I don’t like that party.”
“I am protesting the price of Doritos because I wish they were cheaper!”
But the Bible says this: “Be humble…Become the servant of all.”
In other words, think of others first.
Fight the sinful, selfish urge to say, “Here’s what’s best for me,” and say, “I’m going to listen and learn what’s best for others.”
It’s what Jesus did. Because having nails hammered into his hands was probably NOT what felt best to him.
But it was what was best for us.
Think the same way.
4. Think of spiritual more than physical.
God is always more concerned with the spiritual than the physical.
Yes, Jesus healed the sick, but only so he could tell them about salvation.
Yes, Jesus spoke about this life – but only as a means to get to the next life.
Yes, Jesus told his disciples to help other’s physical needs, but only after he gave the mission statement of going and making disciples of all nations by baptizing them and teaching them God’s Word. --- a very, spiritual task.
Even in the temple the reason Jesus protested was against the physical: making money, saving the hassle, making the temple trip an easy thing….
And it was for the spiritual: an atmosphere focused on God’s Word – a temple dedicated to connecting with God spiritually that they might hear the message of the Savior – and be saved.
(4) Protest How?
Because once we have taken our stand against our own sins, God does call us to stand against sin out there.
But how do we do that?
Do we go downtown and start destroying things?
Do we knock on our neighbor’s door and punch him tin the face? (I am offended by your lawn gnomes!)
No. The Bible says this, “Be Kind.”
It means (wait for it), “Be kind.”
Even in protest.
We don’t vandalize.
We aren’t violent.
We speak the truth in love.
We speak the truth peacefully.
But Pastor… Jesus wasn’t so kind! He knocked things over. He caused chaos. He was a bit of a vandal.
But friend…Jesus is God! Simply put: He does what he wants. If God wants to violently oppose sin, He can – that fits within the job description of God.
As for us, we are humans.
We let God to be the judge.
We remain peaceful.
But...also we remain confident.
We mentioned it earlier – at the end of his protest, the Pharisees approached and asked him, “What was his authority to do all this? What was his authority to free the animals? What was his authority to knock over the table? What was his authority to do all of this?”
And Jesus’ answer was: “Destroy this temple and 3 days later I will raise it.”
Only he wasn’t talking about the building temple.
He was talking about his body temple.
In other words – Jesus’ authority was based on his resurrection.
And your authority is based on his resurrection.
When you stand up for truth,
When you stand up for God’s Word,
When you stand up for what God has declared right,
You stand with great authority.
The authority of the resurrected Lord himself.
May his power give us strength to protest the evil in our lives. Amen.