Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.
Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and that the Father is in me? The Words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and that the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.”
What had he just done.
Peter looked around. Thousands and thousands of pupils were now focused solely on him. The roar of the crowds chatter faded away. Everyone was waiting to hear what he had to say.
Peter wasn’t used to this. He was a fisherman. He was used to time on a quiet lake in the calm air. Peaceful. Warm. The occasional splash of a nearby jump. There wasn’t anyone else there besides his brother Andrew and his good friends James and John. On the lake, he certainly didn’t have to make any speeches other than the occasional mock speech he made to the salmon about how he had a good life and was now about to join the Great Frying Pan in the Sky.
Now Peter was in the center of Jerusalem. Now he was surrounded by strangers from strange cultures all over the Middle East – Parthians, Medes, Elamites, Judeans, Cappadoccians, Pontians, Asians, Phyrgians, Pamphylians, Egyptians and Romans. Now he was to make a speech.
What would he do? If he wanted to make the speech go well, he’d have to be very careful with his words. He could mention Jesus – sure, but he’d want to quickly acknowledge the sun god – Ra out of respect for the Egyptians there. Then, he’d need to talk about Artemis – the fertility goddess – in order to appease the Corinthian traders in town. Then, he’d need to make sure that they were all placed on equal footing as the Greek gods Zeus, Ares and Poseidon, while interspersing the names Jupiter, Mars, and Neptune for all those Romans who were present. All while not forgetting those Jews – they didn’t like to hear much about sin, so --- his big finish could be – “Jesus is the Messiah – and I think, it’s just my opinion, and you may think differently—that you didn’t treat him the best all the time.”
Yes. Peter could go that route. He could send everyone home happy. He could tell them that they all had different religions which were all utterly opposed to one another, but they all lead to God eventually…so…Raise your glasses and “Coexist!” That was the world’s definition of TRUTH!
That speech certainly had a happy ending. But…it didn’t seem right. Afterall, he’d been a disciple to Jesus. A man who didn’t accept the world’s definition of truth. A man whose definition was strange. A man whose definition was CounterCultural.
The more he thought about it, the more Jesus’ definition was echoing throughout his cerebrum:
"Peter, I am the Truth."
This morning we’re continuing our series called CounterCultural by taking a look at that counter cultural statement from Jesus. In a culture where truth is whatever you want the truth to be or whatever you feel the truth should be, and who is anyone to ever disagree with you, Jesus spoke to the most divisive truth of all -- Religion. And he wasn’t so wishy washy.
Take a look at that. It’s from John 14:6. Jesus’ disciples had just asked him to show them the way to God. Jesus responded, “I am… the Truth…No one comes to the Father, except through me.”
I. The Truth is The Truth.
Here’s the first thing take note of. The Truth is the Truth. Notice the definite article on Jesus’ predicate nominative. I am THE Truth. He didn’t say “I am a truth.” He didn’t say, “I one of the truths.” He didn’t say, “I feel like I am the truth. If you feel that way too, gnarly dude.”
The definite article is one letter in Greek and it is a very important letter. It means that Jesus considered himself to be THE only Truth and THE only way to know God.
In April, we had Pastor’s Conference in Philadelphia. One of the first things that we did when we were there was to drive directly downtown to get some Philly Cheese Steak. Have you ever been there? Literally, when you get downtown, you run into Geno’s--an awesome Philly name. It smells delicious. The moment you open up your car door, the smell of thick, roasted, peppery meat fills your nostrils. There’s a sign next to the window that says “Best Cheesesteak in Philly” and you believe it. You ordered a ½ pound sandwich. Wolf it down and smile. It's delicious.
Then, you look across the street. In bright neon, obnoxious, flashing light is a sign: “Pat’s – Best Cheesesteak in Philly.” So, you do your civic duty. You loosen your belt and you order another ½ pounder.
Which is true? Which is better? It’s really subjective, isn’t it? Subjective means that it is your opinion. When it comes to subjective truth, the truth can literally be whatever you want it to be.
But that’s not the kind of truth that Jesus was speaking about here. Jesus isn’t saying “I think I’m the best god.” He isn’t saying, “My words are pretty valid.”
Jesus said, “I am the truth.”
That’s not subjective truth, but objective truth. It’s not opinion, but fact. Objective truth is truth because it is the truth. My hair is brown. I have two eyes. The colors of the new Pentecost banners are red --- it’s still red, no matter how much you’d like it to be purple polka dotted. It’s red.
The problem is that society has confused objective truth with subjective truth.
Take the Common Core Curriculum. I don’t know a lot about it. But I read an eye opening article a while back. It examined the way that children were taught TRUTH and OPINION. In the article were real examples from a Scantron test where students were given a statement and then they had to mark if the statement was FACT or OPINION.
Let’s see how you do.
Fact or Opinion. It’s wrong to cheat on a test. – Did you say Fact? That’s wrong. Morality is only an opinion.
Fact or Opinion. Lying is wrong. – Did you say Fact again? How foolish that’s your opinion.
Fact or Opinion. All men are created equal. – The correct answer is opinion. Popular, yes. But not fact. Only opinion.
Or course-- and this is my question-- if the creators of the Scantron are saying that those statements are Opinions, then how do we know it’s Fact? Isn’t that just their opinion?
Objective truth is fact. Whether it’s the color of my hair of whether or stealing is wrong. Objective truth is truth for all people of all time. It isn’t determined by popular vote, emotional response, or moral majority.
Jesus statement is objective. He is THE TRUTH. His Words are the Truth. The Bible is The Truth. Jesus as God is The Truth.
II. The Truth Excludes Opposing Truths.
The second thing builds off of the first. Since the truth is the truth, it excludes any truth that’s opposes it. Notice what it says, “opposing truth.” If they aren’t in opposition, then they can certainly coexist but be true. For instance, I might say “This bag of Doritos is Cheesy” and you might say, “It is also Triangular.” Fair enough. We can coexist. They are not opposed to one another. They can both be true.
But if the two truths oppose one another, then one of the truths is not true.
For example, my dog Clay. My dog clay is a dog. I put a picture of him up there for ya’ll to confirm. His species is Canine.
Now what if I said, “Clay is a human.” That’s not true. Clay can’t be both canine and human no matter how much he wants it to be true – The fact that he is a dog nullifies the fact that he is a human and makes it not true.
With me so far?
Jesus just said that He is the Truth. Since Jesus is the Truth and the true way to God the Father, then any religion that claims to have the truth and yet speaks a different truth, necessitates that one of the truths is wrong!
· “There is God.” “There isn’t God.” Those aren’t both true. One is and one isn’t.
· “Jesus is God.” “Allah is God.” It’s not just a cultural thing. One is true; the other is false.
· “Christianity is the true way to God.” “Buddhism is the truest way to God.” There are no superlatives in contradicting statements.
· “God and I are cool because Jesus died for me.” and “God and I are cool because I’m not that bad of a sinner." These are mutually opposed statements. Someone is wrong.
In Jesus’ own words, who is he suggesting is wrong?
“I am the Truth…No one comes to the Father except through me.”
III. The Truth has been Substantiated.
Immediately, you need to be asking the question of any religion you stumble across – “How do I trust you? How do I know that what you are speaking is the truth?”
You could ask that question about other religious leaders. Mohammed would tell you “Because I went up on a mountain, received a vision, and I told you so.” Joseph Smith would tell you, “Because I went into the woods, picked up a pair of sunglasses that only I could use, and read a language that only I could know.” Buddha would tell you, “Because…don’t you just feel it, man?”
What would Jesus tell you? How would he defend the truth?
11 “Believe me when I tell you that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe based on the evidence of the miracles themselves.”
Jesus didn’t do these miracles in the forest by themselves. He didn’t do these miracles in a showroom at Vegas. He did these in his own backyard.
He did them in plain sight of tens of thousands of people:
· He made the blind man – who had been blinds for decades and who was known by thousands of people who had walked by him and heard his cry for “alms” --- Jesus made him see!
· He fed almost 10,000 people with just a 5 loaves of bread and two loaves of fish. Not only did their eyes see it, but their stomachs felt it! Their bellies attested to it: Jesus is God!
· He died. Then, he came back to life. He didn’t appear once. He didn’t appear twice. He didn’t appear to one person or two people. Or even just his disciples. He appeared to over 500 people, at many times, in various places – friends and foes alike!
Jesus did things that only God can do, to validate that he was the True God!
This is key for you. Because now others truths that he spoke about you are also true:
· You are children of God through faith.
· Whoever believes in Him will be saved
· In Jesus, we become the righteousness of God.
IV. Speaking The Truth Is Loving
Even so you now know what the Truth is understand that the world doesn’t care. Our world seems to have this idea that if you have the truth, the most loving thing for you to do is to keep your mouth shut!
Is that really the loving thing though? Is it really loving to have the truth and not share it?
We just got our Precious Lambs picture back. On the day they were taken it was a windy day, and right before we were all lined up, Julianna looked at my hair and grimaced. It was stringy. It was mussed up. She lifted her hand and tried to brush it out of my face.
But, I’ll confess something, in my own sinful nature, I got upset: “Leave it alone. It’s find. You’re embarrassing me.”
Now that we’ve gotten the pictures back…it turns out, I embarrassed me.
Speaking the truth is loving when it comes to mussed up hair. Even if the person gets upset, it’s loving!
If your child started climbing the side of the lion cage at the zoo would you shout, “Get down from there!” Or politely whisper to your neighbor, “I don’t dare shout at her. If she wants to climb the cage and play with the vicious tigers, I would be stifling her creativity and who she is as a human being if I stopped her.”
I hope you’d do the former!
May the same be true for the message of Jesus. Scripture says “Speak the truth in love.” Nowhere do you ever hear Jesus saying, “Don’t speak the truth.” Nowhere does Jesus say, “Speak the truths that are convenient.” Nowhere does Jesus say, “Speak the truth unless it hurts someone’s feelings.”
Jesus doesn’t care about feelings. Jesus cares about eternal souls.
You do the same. Courageously explain to your coworkers why the Bible is the truth. Tell your unbelieving spouse why you are concerned for his soul. Boldly tell your children, “They believe something different. It’s not the truth. We believe Jesus. Jesus is the truth.”
You aren’t being unloving for caring that your children hear the truth! Not at all.
In fact, you’re being just like Peter.
Let’s get back to that Pentecost scene. Peter took a breath. Then Peter spoke the truth:
He didn’t care if it seemed strange: “This is what was spoken about in the Prophet Joel: ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.' " (2:16-18)
He didn’t care if it offended: “Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.” (2:22-23)
He didn’t care if it was exclusive: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” (2:38)
He simply cared that they knew the truth and were saved. “Save yourselves from this wicked and corrupt generation.”
And you know what happened? Peter didn’t get beat up. He wasn’t thrown in prison. He didn’t get called a fool – not on Pentecost.
41 "Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day."
Praise God for the Truth. The Truth is Powerful. Amen.
It was finally time.
They were a who’s who of discipleship. The real followers of Jesus. 11 men who had followed him everywhere for the past 3 years. They had left their families, their jobs, their identities…They had left their lives in order to follow Jesus.
Now it felt like it was about time.
After all the travelling, all of the missing home, all of the time away from kids, all of the sleeping under random bushes, all of the wondering where their next meal would be from, all of the time being basically “homeless”, all of the holding back crowds who desperately wanted to see Jesus, all of the confusing teachings, all of the nerve wracking speeches, all the angry glares from the religious leaders, all of the hiding, all of the terror, all of the horror in seeing their leader dead, and all of the glory in seeing him back to life…now it seemed like it was time. Time for them to get their reward.
“Lord are you at this time going to restore the kingdom of Israel?”
Because surely, if now was the time to set up an earthly kingdom with Jesus at the head, they would be high up there too. Then, it would all have been worth it. They could trade in their dirty travel garments for the purple robes of a king. They could trade in scaling fish for scaling the statue of them that would go in their own hometowns. They would be princes in God’s kingdom – each of them would be assigned a personal Pharisees who would feed them grapes and wave palm branches to cool the hot Middle Eastern air – as they lounged on their limited edition, gold studded, discipleship lawn chairs while sampling an endless supply of 2 Loaf bread direct from Jesus’ power.
Jesus began to answer them. He gave another speech about how that’s not really his reason in coming to earth – but I imagine the disciples missed it. They were too busy dreaming about how they would GQ their outfits to process what he was saying.
Then, something happened that they couldn’t miss.
Jesus feet moved. Not forward. Not backwards. But upwards. They kept moving upwards.
The disciples looked around expecting to see Peter behind Jesus lifting Jesus up in a big bear hug –but he too was staring in amazement with them. There was no strings, no jetpack, no helicopter. They weren’t in Kitty Hawk and Jesus wasn’t testing out Wilbur and Orville’s flying machine thousands of years before they were even born.
This was a miracle. Jesus was levitating off the ground.
And he kept going up! He went past the tree lines. He went past the birds. He went past the mountain peaks. He went past up until the clouds hid him from their sight.
The disciples? Well, they did about the only thing that they could at that moment. They opened their mouths and stared.
They, literally, had an out of this world leader.
Today we are starting a new sermon series. It’s called CounterCulture. It will explore how Jesus and his teachings are completely CounterCulture to Modern Society. Can’t think of any other way to start than by learning the very truth about Jesus that the disciples were reminded of on Ascension: Jesus Himself is Counter Culture.
1. CounterCultural Power
Again. Jesus lifted himself off the ground, into the sky, and into heaven without the help of any magician’s assistants or a really big fishing pole hooked up to his tunic. He did it with his power.
I haven’t seen President Obama do that recently. Nor did I see President Bush do it. Nor do I suggest that you should base who you are going to vote for in the next election on which one of them can jump to the top of the White House in a single bound.
Earthy leaders have skills. Skills get them to be the head of their field. The incredible quarterback has a rocket for an arm. The gifted musician can play a tune by memory. The C.E.O. highlighted in Forbes has vision and a keen sense for business.
Jesus had skills too. He healed the sick faster than any other doctor and with less medicine – he just used his words. He walked on water with more grace and stability than an Olympian water skiing – only he did it without skiis and only his two feet. He did a better job making sure the weather was good for you to head out on a church picnic than a weatherman – predicting, hoping. He said “Stop raining.” And it did. He was the top of his field in winemaking without any grapes, curing paralysis without therapy, removing blindness with saliva, defeating deafness with his Word, glowing his face brighter than the sun, feed tens of thousands with a picnic basket of food, and restoring lives without a defibrillator days before a defibrillator was invented.
Then, when he died, Jesus showcased a skill that no one else in the history of the world has ever had before nor will they have again: He brought himself back to life.
Do you see how Jesus’ power is CounterCultural? It is out of this world. Where we are weak, he is strong. Where we are powerless, He is powerful. Where we can do nothing, He says, “Watch this.”
But Jesus didn’t use his power for power’s sake. He wasn’t trying to get on the front of the Wheaties box and he wasn’t trying to win the World’s Strongest Man Competition.
Jesus’ power helped him accomplish his goal!
2. CounterCultural Goals
What was Jesus’ goal? It was more than what he disciples thought. He wasn’t gathering a secret army to go and ransack the Roman palace in hopes of setting up a political power on earth.
In Mark 10:45, Jesus says this, “The Son of Man came to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
To serve and to save. A goal that would result in his untimely death!?!
Anyone here watch SharkTank? It’s a show in which these world renowned entrepreneurs listen to the plans of young innovator’s and then decide whether or not they should invest in their business. My guess? Mr. Wonderful, Kevin O’Leary would have hated Jesus’ business plan.
“So…You have all the power in the world. You have a cure for blindness. You have a cure for paralysis. You have a cure for deafness. And…you’re not charging any money? You aren’t planning on building a supply warehouse. In fact, you’re planning to die – leaving your business worthlessly bankrupt?” Not even Mark Cuban would have invested in Jesus’ business plan.
Jesus’ goal was not money. It was not power. It was not fame. It was not prestige.
His goal was greater. It was your salvation.
“The Son of Man came to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Here’s the God’s honest truth about our condition. We are sinful. We have been trapped in the world by our sinful vices – selfishness, envy, greed, lust, sloth, hatred. These themselves are such a common part of our sinful world that they grab onto us and lodge themselves into our souls and take us captive promising to lead to a wonderful life and brothers and sisters, they fail so miserably.
But Jesus has in mind to take us out of this world. He has in mind to take us with him where all that sin is gone.
But here’s the problem. Have any of you been in an airport recently? Maybe you had to lift your hands above your head, place your feet a foot apart, and wait as that big whirly machine scans your entire body for weapons. If they find something out of place, a weapon or a misplaced bobby pin, then you can’t go through.
Heaven is the same way. Except God doesn’t scan for sharp metal. He scans for sin. And God’s sin scanner has come back and it’s so dark with sin that you’d think the machine was broken.
God says this, “All have sinned, they have together become worthless, there is no one who does good; not even One.”
And today’s leaders. Today’s earthly leaders don’t care. Selfishness would kick in, “Good luck with that. I’ll take my money, I”ll take my jet, I’ll take my HD Google watch over here and pretend that I didn’t see you.”
Not Jesus. Jesus came to rid you of that awful condition. He came to free you from the sin that had taken hold of your soul. Even when the only way sin would release you would be through His death – Jesus willingly, freely, and swiftly offered his body for you.
“Christ redeemed you from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse for us.”
You know how we know that this all worked? This is the guy who floated up to heaven. It’s the guy who came back to life. It’s the guy who did all powerful, impossible things, one after another.
Can he really remove your sin one time for all time? Absolutely. Whoever believes in Jesus will not perish, but have eternal life.
3. CounterCultural Instructions
Look at what Jesus told his disciples: Be witness of all this to the ends of the earth. He didn’t want them to set up a statue in his arm. He didn’t ask them to build and make a foundation named after him. He didn’t tell them to invest his money in upcoming stocks. He didn’t ask for them to start a brand new political party.
He simply told them to spread his message.
These are the same instructions he has given us. As a family of believers at Gethsemane & Precious Lambs – this is our goal. Not to make money. Not to keep our furnishings updated, not to impress others with ‘how godly we are’, not to ‘fill the pews’, not to ‘make sure kids know their ABCs, 123s, and the difference between an Alligator & a Crocodile.”
Our mission is to tell people about Jesus. Our mission is to tell North Raleigh about Jesus. Our missions is to tell our kids Jesus.
You are a part of this mission!
But Pastor. I'm not professional. I don't have a Masters of Divinity. I'm not that good at talking to others.
That's the way of our world isn't it? Hire the people from Yale and Harvard. Make sure they've won some awards. The more fancy diplomas on the wall, the more likely one is to be hired.
Jesus? He called some fisherman to work for him. An accountant. A political activist. Jesus called regular people to share his out of this world message with regular people.
It's the same today.
Are you a mechanic? Share Jesus.
Do you work at Whole Foods? Share Jesus.
Are you a teacher? Share Jesus.
Are you in 4th grade? Share Jesus.
4. CounterCultural Timeline
Deadlines run our world. Yet what’s pretty nice about a deadline, is that it kind of gives you ability to slack off. If you’ve got until next week, why not schedule a golf outing on Monday? If you’ve got to the end of the day, why not see what goofy things Uncle Carl has been up to on Facebook? If you’ve got a sermon that isn’t preached until Sunday, why not get distracted by binge watching Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D? – you might get some inspiration.
God’s timeline? Well, He doesn’t tell. Jesus said to his disciples, “It is not for you to know the times and dates set by my Father.”
Which means it could be anytime.
Which means it could be now.
Which means there is no time like now – for you to believe -- for you to share God’s Message.
This past Friday I flew through Bible study at the retirement home I visit. I made sure to start on time and tried to finish a bit early because it was a busy morning. Bible study at 9:30am. And a meeting at 10:30am. Then, because Precious Lambs was having early release, I had to get back and get Chapel ready. I was under the gun.
I was literally out the door and ready to walk back to Gethsemane when she stopped me. I had seen her before. She had been coming to my Bible studies for awhile, but hadn’t said much. I wasn’t even sure that what I was saying was tracking.
She looked at me with tearful eyes. “Are you a pastor?”
“I have a problem. I just moved here. I left my family in Jersey. I am all alone. I have made a mistake. I have sinned. Will God ever forgive me? Will God ever love me?”
I didn’t even look at my watch.
Some things are so much more important than the busy things. Nothing is more important than THE Eternal thing.
Put eternal things first. Because the Eternal One put you first.
5. CounterCultural Promise
Steve Jobs was an incredible leader. His company, Apple, changed the world. It skyrocketed up the Stock Market. It is an incredible company. I'm using an iPhone to keep Bible passages up during this sermon writing!
Steve Jobs was a great leader.
Steve Jobs is dead.
Jesus is not.
And though he ascended to heaven, Jesus has not left us. He said, "Surely I am with you always to the very end of the age."
How can that be Jesus? We can't see you.
"Remember how I ascended to heaven? That was impossible too huh, yet I did it. So am I with you."
It's quite a bumpy ride following Jesus. It's tough living counter to culture (as the coming weeks will show us), but Jesus is an out of this world leader. He won't leave you. He won't leave me.
Won't you follow him?
The knock at the door startled him.
Peter turned inquisitively. The noise was harsh and deliberate as if the person on the other side needed his guidance right this instance.
He opened the door to find two men standing there; each with a look of concern. “Peter, we’re glad to see you. Something awful has happened. Tabitha is dead. Please come at once!” (V.38)
Peter’s face faded. He had heard about Tabitha. She lived in Joppa. Joppa was kind of a rough place. It was well known its history of pirates, the repeated reconstructions from various city wide fires, and being nothing more than a pawn whose people were thrown back and forth between political dynasties. It wasn’t a huge city. A fishing port. A place with plenty of trouble.
Tabitha had tried to fix that. In Joppa she did what she could to help. Scripture says, “She was always doing good and helping the poor." I imagine that was a host of things – Picking up day old bread from the local bakery to distributed to the poor. Cooking up a pot of soup to deliver to the sick. Taking up a collection to help those who could barely afford to pay rent. Tabitha loved her Lord and she loved the people of Joppa with heart full of love. In fact, her name – Tabitha – and its Greek translation “Dorcas” – both meant “gazelle” -- an excellent description of one who bounding with gazelle like
Unfortunately Joppa was about 12 miles away from where Peter was staying in Lydda. That’s why the disciples were so frantic. There weren’t any local pastors around yet. They couldn’t just text message for some help. No one could Facebook status Peter updates on how she was doing. Peter wasn’t able to Skype in with a last second devotion before she had passed away.
It was all too late.
But because this woman was so loved, the people needed him. They needed Peter to comfort them. They needed Peter to remind them of their faith. They knew Peter had so many words of Jesus committed to his heart and they wanted to hear those words as they ready for what would be a rather large funeral.
As they traveled to Joppa, I imagine that Peter was a bit nervous. This wasn’t some bit player in the Joppa church. She was very well known. She had had an impact on so many lives. What could he say to comfort them? How could he assure them it was ok? What words of Jesus would he use for his sermon – he didn’t even have the New Testament yet to review what Jesus had said!
They arrived at the house. Tabitha’s body had been already washed and placed in an upstairs room. (37) She was attended to by the widows that she had once herself attended. Her dear friends whom she had helped through rough times. The poor widow who depended on Tabitha to help feed her family. The elderly widow who depended on Tabitha for some kind of social interaction. The now healthy widow whose bed Tabitha spent long hours besides reading Psalms in order to comfort her.
By the way, this is proof that she had really died. The people working with her body hadn’t felt a pulse. They didn’t stop because her lungs were moving. As they put on one of her prettiest dresses, their hands brushed against the cold texture of her skin. As nicely as they did her, ordained her neck with jewels, and put makeup on her face, they couldn’t hide the fact that this life filled woman was now nothing more than a sack of dead bones.
As Peter walked up the stairs, he was by a blur of emotions. There was wailing. Cries of “Why did God let this happen Peter?” Hands from the left and the right were reaching out to receive a hug. Woman after woman shoved blankets in his face – they hysterically rushed through their stories of how Tabitha had helped them, of how they would miss her, of how this was such a terrible thing to have happen.
As Peter took it all in – I imagine his stomach churned. (I know that’s what happened to me the first time I was in the room while someone had died.) And as a Pastor -- Peter needed to have all the answers and he needed them quick. There wasn’t time for him to heal, he needed to provide words of healing so he could remove the pain that the hearts of all of these women were feeling.
Peter needed a moment. He had the two men clear the widows from the room. He was left alone with the lifeless body of this dear woman.
What would Jesus do? He always had known what to say. He always had known how to help. In fact – Peter had seen him handle similar situations before. In Jairus’ bedroom – as emotions were even higher of the death of a young girl – Jesus reached out his hand and opened her eyelids. In Nain – hordes of people had gathered to mourn the burial of a young man – Jesus had stopped the procession to give the man his life back. At Mary and Martha’s house, the funeral was already over – and only the bitterness at God was left. 4 days Lazarus had been in the tomb – when Jesus opened the tomb and Lazarus came walking out.
This situation was so similar. Pain. Sadness. Mourning. It was similar and yet – different.
There was no Jesus.
...Or was there?
“Surely, Peter, I will be with you always to the very end of the Age.” (Mt. 28:21)
Peter knelt to the ground and prayed.
“O dearest master, my Lord, Jesus. You promised to be with me. I believe it. You have power over death. I have seen it. You are always merciful. I know it. Be with me now. Be powerful now. Be merciful now. Give Tabitha her life back. Amen.”
Slowly Peter blinked. He took a deep breath. He went up to Tabitha’s bed. He looked into her peacefully closed eyelids.
“Tabitha,” he said, “Get up.” (v.40)
No matter how long it was in actual seconds and minutes, I imagine it seemed like an eternity for Peter. His words hung there like a puff of smoke – slowly dissipating into the air.
Then, Tabitha opened her eyes. She was alive.
Next it says, Seeing Peter she sat up. I imagine it was kind of quickly too. “Hey wait a second, Peter!?! I thought you were still on earth? Where’s Jesus? Where’s the angels? Where’s the glorious heavenly music? I don’t see the streets of gold – this is…this is my bedroom? I’m back on earth. God has given me my life back. God isn’t done with me yet. God has a plan for me to serve him. Oh how thrilling. Here, come and give me a hug now Peter. And reach over and grab my sewing set will you? I want to make you a nice a new tunic for all your trouble – a servant of God can’t do his preaching without a nice tunic, don’t you agree?”
The curve’s of Peter’s smile must have connected with the tears falling from his eyes. God did it. God had raised her from the dead!
Peter took Tabitha downstairs and the gasps between cries turned into gasps of amazement. The tears of sadness turned to tears of joy. The wailing turned to laughter. Jesus had done it again. He had destroyed death. He had brought Tabitha back to life. And many heard these news and many believed in the Lord.
This story is amazing isn’t it? It takes one of the saddest things that happens on earth and totally turns it around. But here’s the deal: This isn’t Pinocchio where Geppetto’s love miraculously gives Pinocchio life and turns him into a real boy only because the original author thought it’d be a really neat twist--a commentary on how people live forever through memories.
This story is real. This resurrection is real. This resurrection is joyous. There’s two important things for you to remember from it:
What was the first thing that Peter did when he was faced with the terrors of death? He didn’t whip out his travelling medical kit. He didn’t frantically search the room for a defibrillator. He didn’t get out his phone and WebMD a cure for death. He didn’t start crying hysterically because he knew there was nothing he could do. Check out verse 40. He got down on his knees and prayed. He postured himself before his all powerful and merciful Lord.
Our world is scared of death. Thousands of dollars are spent on healthy eating programs, organic foods, exercise programs, and doctor visits. We want to live. We don’t want to die.
Sometimes it gets personal. Someone you love gets sick. A friend gets into a car accident. The news reports a string of murders. You get a bad report from the doctor. Everywhere you go you are reminded of death.
When that happens posture yourself in front of the cross. Bow before your Savior. Get on your hands and knees and pray to your Lord. Pray confidently like you're talking to your old friend – because you are! Surely he is with you always to the very end of the age.
Be confident that he will be able to save you from death. Because he has already destroyed it!
Julianna, my sweet wife, hates spiders. Actually bugs of all kinds, but especially spiders. The other day one of them had made its way into the home. She screamed, but then she gathered her senses, picked up a shoe, and she fought that spider in Mortal Kombat. She smacked him again and again and again and again and again. I think she killed him about sixteen times.
That’s how Jesus killed death. It’s exactly how Jesus killed your sins which would have caused your eternal death. He squashed Death like a bug. He destroyed it.
It’s amazing how that’s not what it looked like would happen. He hung on the cross and breathed his last. His heart stopped beating. His brain stopped shooting nervous throughout his system.
But three days later – his lungs breathed again. His heart beat with a purpose. His brain was on eternal hyperdrive!
Jesus defeated death. He said ENOUGH OF IT! He says the same for you too.
It’s why the Bible says what it does about death. We read it as our verse of the day from 1 Corinthians 15:55-56: "Where O death is your victory? Where O death is your sting? The sting of death is sin and the power of sin is the law, but thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Posture yourself at the feet of the cross and you will find comfort. You will find life.
Does it ever happen to you that the first time you read a story, you totally miss something? Then the second time you see it something jump out at you before that wasn’t there before? Ever seen the movie Inception? I’ve seen it about 5 times and I’m still not sure I totally know what’s going on.
Take a look at our story again. Did you notice that Tabitha wasn’t the only one who came back to life that day? That’s a pretty big miss isn’t it? Look at the story again. Look at verse 42 says that This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord. The message that Peter taught – about Jesus Christ, our Savior who died to save us from our sins – was yet against substantiated by a fantastic miracle – and many put their faith in Him. Their spiritually dead souls had come to life!
Have you heard of Isagenix? It’s some kind of meal replacement system that apparently does wonders for your body. Sometimes on Facebook five out of the first ten story updates are nothing but pictures and testimonials from my friends about how this product saved their life. I can understand why they are so excited! Isagenix may cause them to live longer.
But eventually they’ll die.
You have someone way more powerful than Isagenix – someone who has power not just over fat and cholesterol – someone who has power over death itself.
Isn’t that a good enough reason to pass on the message of your Savior? Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in me will live, even though he dies. Whoever lives and believes in me, will never die.”
How can your friend believe if you don’t tell him? How will your kids know if you don’t teach them? How will your husband know if you don’t insist on bringing him to church?
But they might get annoyed with me!
I’ll tell you what - it’s worth them getting annoyed. “Yes, I’m insisting on you coming to hear the message of Jesus. You getting annoyed at me right now is totally worth having you rejoicing with me in heaven.”
I know that’s what Georg thought.
I’ve told you about Georg before. He was a friend of mine down at a nearby retirement home. He was 98 years old. For three years he came very faithfully to our Friday morning Bible studies. He answered questions. He listened and slept sometimes – but he loved hearing about Jesus. It was what gave him strength. He loved to tell me stories about growing up in Austria. He told me funny anecdotes about immigrating to America. He told me stories of bravery during WWII. He told me tear jerkers about his wife who had passed on.
One weekend, Georg didn’t come to Bible study. I thought he might just be sick, so I didn’t think anything of it. The next week he wasn’t there either so I went to his room to look for him. The third week I asked the director – she passed on the word that Georg had died.
I teared up. But I also smiled. Because as nice as it was for Georg and I to spend time together on earth – now he was spending eternity--eternity together with his wife and Jesus in heaven.
Jesus is "the resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in me will live, even though he dies. Whoever lives and believes in me, will never die.” Posture yourself before his cross. Present his message to the world.