Last week we talked about the riot in Ephesus where the crowd chanted against the Gospel for two straight hours, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!!” The crowd was rowdy. They were violent. They were angry. In fact, the situation was so dangerous that Paul’s friends wouldn’t even let him appear before the crowd in order to defend himself.
You might have expected that to end in tragedy.
The crowd quieted.
They went home.
Paul was safe.
But the Christians didn’t think it would be wise to keep Paul in Ephesus. So, after two years pastoring in Ephesus, Paul left. Acts 20:1 says, “He said goodbye and set out for Macedonia. He traveled throughout that area speaking many words of encouragement to the people.” It means Paul headed east. He crossed the sea and began revisiting the churches that he had started.
He went back to Philippi.
He went back to Thessalonica.
He went back to Berea.
He went back to Apollonia, Amphipolis, and Corinth.
Finally, he arrived in Greece where he stayed for three months. (v.3) While there he most likely revisited Corinth. Maybe even Athens. After those three months (most likely winter months where sailing is discouraged), Paul was about to sail for Syria, but because some Jews had plotted against him, he decided to go back through Macedonia. (v.3) Whether they were plotting to throw him overboard, sink the ship, or get him really drunk on rum in order to convince him to walk the plank, Paul found out and was kept safe.
Again, tragedy avoided.
In fact, Paul safely returns through all those cities to Philippi and from there he crosses the sea back to the Middle East and gets to Troas.
It’s not far now.
It’s should be a smooth journey, right?
Home is just around the corner.
And it’s there that tragedy strikes.
Today we’re going to learn about that tragedy that hit close to home. Then, we’ll learn how Jesus helps us through tragedy. Before we begin, a prayer: O 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. A Tragedy
The lesson starts in verse 7. It says, “On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight.”
Read that again.
The disciples came together on the first day of the week. That’s a Sunday. It’s neat to note that Christians are gathering together, not on a Saturday like they did in the Old Testament, but on a Sunday. The same day of the week that Jesus rose from the dead. It’s also shortly after Passover. Just it was shortly after Passover that Jesus rose from the dead.
As they gathered, they were planning to break bread. That’s a reference to a fellowship meal. A 1st century potluck. Complete with Mazza balls, lamb casserole and (if it’s anything like our potlucks) about 17 different kinds of dessert.
But before they could get to the meal, Paul began preaching. Since it was the dinner hour, that the gathering probably started happening somewhere around 6pm. During that first hour, people greeted each other, the fellowship team arranged the meal, and the musicians warmed up on their instruments.
That means Paul would have began his sermon about an hour later, around 7pm.
Five hours later?
He’s still talking.
Insert joke about sermon length here.
One person there that evening was a young man named Eutychus.
That’s impressive. Because most young people in Troas would be focused on other things in the evening:
Spending their money at local establishments.
Getting home to their families.
Going out to eat with a young woman so that he might one day have a family.
But Eutychus was at church.
In the evening.
Since it was their version of Monday, he was probably tired and ready for a nap at home. But he didn’t want to miss seeing the Apostle Paul one last time before he left so…
Eutychus attended the gathering.
He greeted other church members.
He let his elders have the seats in the front.
He let the women with children have seats in the back.
He stood near the back, excited to listen to what Paul had to say.
And that’s what he did.
For fifteen minutes.
An hour fifteen minutes, an hour thirty minutes, two hours.
Eutychus started fanning himself:
Why is it so hot in here?
Probably all those lamps.
I mean…it makes it easier to see at night, but they are torches. It’s like there’s fifteen mini bonfires in this room.
Eutychus made his way over to the breeze of the nearest open window.
Two hours and two and a half hours.
Three hours, forty-five minutes.
My legs are started to get tired.
I’ve been up on them all day at work.
It’ll be ok. I’ll just sit on this window ledge right here.
Four and a half hours.
Suddenly, Eutychus started to get rather sleepy.
Paul’s words sounded so far away.
He was sure if he had just mentioned the Gospel or the Blospel…
Maybe, he’d close his eyes.
Just for a second.
He could still listen to his words.
He could still hear his sermon.
He could still…
When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story… (v.9)
And suddenly, there was a commotion.
What was that?
I think someone fell.
From on the ground.
Nope from the window.
Who was it?
I don’t know.
I didn’t see.
It’s Eutychus! That’s where he was sitting.
And they rushed down the stairs.
And they rushed out the building.
And they rushed to his body.
And they tried CPR.
And they felt for a pulse.
Meanwhile, Paul was up in the front of the room where he had been preaching.
His heart was racing.
And then he heard it:
He’s dead! Eutychus is dead!
Paul rushed to the door.
He ran to the steps.
He looked at Eutychus’ now limp body.
Oh God! This is a tragedy.
Oh God this is…
Now I don’t know exactly what happened next.
Did Paul speak any words?
Did Paul say prayer?
I don’t know exactly what Paul did next.
We do know what Eutychus did next:
“Don’t be alarmed,” Paul said. “He’s alive! (v.10)
II. Dealing with Skeptics
This account is amazing! A young man falls to his death in the middle of worship. But when Paul gets down to the body without performing CPR, without a defibrillator, without hitting his chest repeatedly in desperation…Eutychus lives! It’s a miracle.
Granted. You might be skeptical about this.
If you tried this with a dead ant out on your driveway, it wouldn’t work.
In fact, a Google search for Eutychus, will lead to some scholarly articles that propose an alternative. They write that: (1) Eutychus never died. He just got knocked out. (2) Paul simply got him out of his stupor, because someone dying and coming back to life is IMOPSSIBLE.
But there are quite a few things in the text that defend against that interpretation:
(1) The Number of Witnesses
Back to the mapwork section. In verse 4, there’s an interesting list. It’s a list of all the different people who are now accompanying Paul on his missionary journey. This list is interesting because it’s a where’s where of places Paul has shared the Gospel:
Sopater…from Berea, the place where the people studiously God’s Word.
Secundus from Thessalonica, the place where persecution was quite intense.
Gaius from Derbe who along with Aristarchus had been dragged through the streets of Ephesus during the riot.
Timothy from Lystra who joined Paul all the way back at the beginning of the second missionary journey.
Tychichus and Trophimus from the province of Asia…representing the various churches of the Galatians.
That’s seven men in all who present in that upper room.
Add in Eutychus for eight.
Then, verse 7 says that Paul was speaking to “the people”. If it would have been just these seven guys, the writer would have said the disciples. By choosing the word “people”, the writer reflects the fact that there were more than these eight. In fact, there were so many that Eutychus had to sit on the ledge of the window.
Here’s the point:
Fooling the whole crowd into thinking that Eutychus had resurrected when he never really died in the first place would have been very challenging with so many present.
Especially since, the crowd got there first.
(2) Logistics of a Lecture
Notice how our church is setup. The pastor is in the front. You all are facing me. The doors to exit the place are closest to you, the audience. I am the farthest from the common exits. It’s the same in most churches and lecture halls.
So, it is easy for someone to slip out without causing much of a disturbance. If a mom is quieting a child or someone needs to use the restroom, leaving from the back is so much easier than having to leave through the front and walking right by the pastor in the middle of the sermon.
Can you imagine reversing it? (Leaving worship would soon be the “walk of shame.”)
It would have been the same way for Paul’s speech. Even though the room may not have been any kind of lecture hall, they still would have setup the room so that Paul was farthest from the door so that the people could easily come and go if needed.
Why is this important?
Because Paul was not the first to get to Eutychus.
The people were.
He couldn’t trick them into thinking Eutychus was dead, when he really wasn’t.
In fact, some get to Eutychus and pick him up “dead” in verse 9 and it isn’t until verse 10 that Paul “goes down” to see him.
Paul couldn’t have tricked them.
And that really solidifies when you consider one more thing
(3) The Presence of Dr. Luke
Back to the group of missionaries with Paul. I left one out. It’s subtle, but it’s there. Verse 6 says, “We sailed…to Troas.” The “we”? That’s a reference to the man who wrote down the book of Acts. It wasn’t Paul, but a man named Luke. Luke had joined Paul’s missionary crew in Mysia. He travelled with Paul throughout missionary journey two and three. Paul even references Luke in some of the letters that he writes to the various churches.
Look at what he reveals about Luke in Colossians:
Our dear friend Luke, the doctor…” (v.4:14)
Did you catch that?
Do you see the significance?
Luke knew how to look for a pulse.
Luke knew how to check for breathing.
Luke knew how to identify a dead person.
I guarantee that Luke was one of the first people down to check on Eutychus.
And he was one of the first people to say: “There’s nothing we can do. He’s dead.”
“Time of death: 12:16am”
In fact, when Paul had stones thrown at him Lystra on his first missionary journey, the crowd left when they saw him fall to the ground in a clump. Luke wrote that Paul was dragged out of the city and that the Jews were “supposing that he was dead” (Acts 14:19).
Here’s the point: if Luke wanted to present the idea that the believers in Troas merely “supposed” that Eutychus was dead, he could have written that.
But he didn’t.
Because he was dead.
Until he wasn’t.
Because of Jesus.
Stop being skeptical. The miracle was real.
III. Transforming Tragedy
Jesus really transformed the situation. He really transformed the tragedy.
(1) Jesus Transforms Tragedy into Celebration.
Look at what happens next:
Then Paul went upstairs again. He broke bread and ate. (v.11a) Which...praise the Lord, the potluck food is finally being eaten. At least by Paul, probably by anyone else who didn’t want to be rude and hadn’t eaten while Paul was speaking. After the tragedy of falling out a window, people aren’t sobbing and crying tears, but laughing and eating some potluck eclairs! Jesus transformed the situation so that now they’re having a dinner party.
Jesus still transforms tragedy into celebration even today.
Because Jesus said that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. (Jn. 3:16)
Just to prove his power to make that promise, Jesus brought people like Eutychus back to life.
But better than that:
Jesus brought himself back to life.
He died on the cross.
Hundreds of people watching his bloody, lifeless body taken down from the cross.
No one! Not a single person stopping to say: “Wait, he’s just knocked out.”
Nope. He was dead, dead. Dead, dead, dead.
Dead enough to be wrapped up in clothes and placed in a grave.
Three days later,
Jesus came back to life.
Jesus has power over life and death.
He provides believers with eternal life even when they die.
It’s why at the last funeral that we had here at Gethsemane.
And people were feeling sad.
And people were thinking it was a tragedy.
But then, we read the Gospel.
Then, we heard about Jesus promises.
Then, we remembered that our dear brother was in heaven above residing in eternal life.
And suddenly, people are in the fellowship hall, talking, laughing, swapping stories and in general, celebrating!
Because Jesus transformed tragedy into celebration.
(2) Jesus Enables ministry to Keep Going…Even when Tragedy Strikes.
Because sometimes when tragedy happens, life comes to a stand-still.
Even during lesser tragedies! Like Spiderman. This past week Sony Pictures and Marvel/Disney ended their deal working together. As of right now, Spiderman cannot appear in the MCU anymore.
And…tragedy. People are on social media like HOW CAN I MOVE ON!?!
The same is true for bigger tragedies.
They need a moment to process.
And to be fair, for a moment that evening in Troas, Paul stopped his sermon. The people stopped listening. Everyone needed to process.
But once Jesus brought Eutychus back to life, Paul grabbed some food and continued doing ministry. He kept talking until morning. (v.10b) Then, he set off for the next stop on the missionary journey.
Jesus enables ministry to keep going even during tragedy.
He gives us comfort.
He gives us joy.
He keeps us uplifted and implores us to keep sharing the Gospel.
In fact, the fact that tragedy happens doesn’t decrease the need for ministry;
It increases the need for ministry.
Because awful things happen in this sin filled world.
Racial hate crimes.
Hurricanes, car accidents, and horrific illness.
Somewhere something horrible happens every day.
That doesn’t mean we should run and hide.
But we need run and tell.
About the God who saw the sadness of tragedy.
About the God who saw the tragedies of this world.
About the God who saw the tragedies in your life.
And didn’t run from it.
But to it.
He came into this tragic world and died on the cross.
To rescue us from the tragedy of death.
To transform tragedy into celebration.
Through your message of the Gospel, he transforms the tragedies of others into celebration.
That’s our job.
That’s your job.
Whether it’s your child, your spouse, your friend, your neighbor, your coworker, or your followers on social media.
Because tragedy exists, God calls you to increase your ministry and share the message of Jesus.
(3) Jesus brings GREAT Comfort
That’s the final verse of the account. It says that after Paul left, “The people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted.” (v.12) Because that evening, they heard about God’s grace for sinners and saw his power over death.
That message of Jesus still brings great comfort even today.
Even amid horrific tragedy.
This past week Monday I was on social media, because sometimes as a pastor of a small medium sized church you’re in charge of social media. So, I was sitting there trying to plan (what kind of posts should we have this week) when I came across a post from a friend’s account that shocked me.
It was from a former Precious Lambs’ parent. One that had been a part of our preschool family a while back. We had ministered to her. Talked with her. Shared the Gospel with her. The kid sang in worship. The parent attended, even got their phone out to record his dancing while he was singing.
I enjoyed them.
On Monday, I saw a Facebook post that said she had passed away.
Son of around 3rd grade.
She passed away.
When I looked closer at the post, I had seen that the one posting was her son.
He was writing from her account.
He had posted a picture of him and his mom and he had written this:
“I’m sorry to say that my mom is gone. But she is in heaven now. Thank you, Jesus.”
Are you kidding me?
I’m tearing up as I’m reading about the tragedy.
I’m tearing up as I’m thinking about the tragedy.
This young man? He’s found comfort.
Great comfort in his Savior.
May Jesus be the one who gives you great comfort, too. Amen.
Looking for a job can be difficult.
Searching for jobs online.
Filing out applications.
Phoning, emailing, texting to check on those applications.
And the interview!
You rent a suit coat.
You part your hair ever so particularly.
You practice saying: “I’m not in it for the money, but because of the sheer joy I get from filling out spreadsheets and alphabetically filing documentation.”
As challenging as finding a job can be…
It gets exponentially more difficult if you have something on your record.
A terrible credit report.
A job history with a few firings.
Even an incriminating Facebook photo or post that you forgot to delete.
Past mistakes can make it difficult to find work in the now…
But what about God’s kingdom?
What if you have mistakes in your past?
Surely – if humans wouldn’t hire you – God, who is perfect, wouldn’t want you to work in his kingdom either…right?
Today’s EYEWITNESS account is about a guy named Peter, who had made some rather big blunders while working in God’s kingdom. We want to learn (1) what his failures were (2) how they affected his role in God’s kingdom and (3) what that means for our roles in kingdom work. Before we begin, 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. Peter’s Story
We are continuing where we left off last week. If you remember, Jesus had appeared to his disciples on the Sea of Galilee. When he appeared, he told them to toss their nets into the lake and – immediately – the net is full of fish. Amazing – because Jesus was 100 yards away on shore and the disciples had been out all night without catching anything.
But that wasn’t it – as the disciples row the boat to shore, Jesus already has fish sandwiches cooking over the fire for them to eat. It’d be similar to someone gifting you a $100 Starbucks gift card and then, when they invite you to Starbucks – they pay for the coffee for you.
Jesus did the same. He provided abundantly.
He provides abundantly.
And I’ll bet the disciples were loving this interaction.
Because Jesus was back!
He conquered death!
He was alive!
He was just as powerful as ever!
And he was with them.
This was great news --- for most of them.
While Peter was happy to see Jesus alive, it also reminded him of the last conversation that they shared.
It had been back before Jesus died.
Back before Jesus was arrested.
They had been sitting down for a meal and Jesus had said, “I tell you the truth. You will all fall away on account on me.” (Matthew 26:31)
And Peter heard it.
And believed most of it.
“Even if all fall away on account of you, Jesus, I never will.” (Matthew 26:33)
I mean…I’m Peter!
Jesus gave me that name.
It means “Rock.”
I am Peter and…I will not fall!
Turned to Peter.
Looked him straight in the eye.
And said this:
“Truly I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me – three times.” (v.34)
Peter would never forget those exact words.
Before that night was over a group of soldiers had come to arrest Jesus.
Swords, clubs, and spears – Peter was frightened like the rest of the disciples and ran away.
Then, sure, he regained his senses and made it into the courtyard where they were holding the illegal late-night trial of Jesus.
Only to deny knowing him.
But three times.
And then? The rooster crowed.
The one Jesus had predicted would crow - it crowed!
Peter hated roosters now.
Because now they were a reminder of how he had sinned.
A reminder of how he had failed…
A reminder of how he had fallen…
A reminder of his guilt.
Guilt is always tricky. It can easily burden a soul.
But Peter’s guilt was especially difficult for a trifecta of reasons that are especially hard to get over. For a few reasons:
He didn’t deny Jesus one time. He didn’t deny Jesus two times. He denied him three times in one evening. (Although during that third time it says that he called down curses upon himself, so even thought it was one “time period” perhaps it was a bunch of times within that time period).
Repeated guilt is hard.
We were given a good deal on a Prius a while back. Great car. Great gas mileage. Fun to drive.
But it’s extremely low to the ground. The bumper is about 2 inches from the street. So, when you come down our driveway which is on a decent incline…if you don’t turn the wheels at a specific angle to the right and back out at that exact angle – the front bumper scrapes.
Do you know how many times I’ve gotten that wrong? (I’m especially guilty of it every morning when I haven’t had my coffee yet) I keep messing up and I keep feeling guilty about it. In fact, the front bumper is cracked in all kinds of places. And it now serves as a 21st century, sheen black version of a rooster. Every time I look at it, I’m reminded of my failures!
Repeated guilt is hard.
Repeatedly drinking too much.
Repeatedly losing your temper.
Repeatedly looking at porn.
Repeatedly lying to your spouse.
Repeatedly being jerk at work.
Repeatedly being a bully to your family.
Repeated guilt is hard because there’s no excuse.
The devil comes along and says,
You know better!
But you did it anyway.
This is unforgivable.
Because Peter was a leader. He was a disciple; more than that – an apostle. There were only twelve of those hand selected and chosen by Jesus. And of those twelve disciples – Peter was definitely a leader among them: He had the privilege of walking on water. He saw Jesus heal a dead girl when many of them didn’t. He was chosen along with only two others to see Jesus go up on a mountain and reveal his heavenly brilliance. Peter was a leader.
And then he fell.
And when leaders fall…
They quickly become leaders in holding onto guilt.
Maybe you know.
Whether you’re a leader in your family.
Or a leader here at church.
Or a leader among your friends.
Or a teacher of kids.
Or even…you’re the only one at work who is Christian – making you a spiritual leader by default – and then you sin…?
How’s that feel?
The devil comes along and whispers:
“You’re a leader…and you did that?”
“I’m not sure you’re a leader anymore…”
“…I’m not even sure you’re a part of his kingdom.”
Because by the time Peter gets to the third denial, there’s a crowd of people gathered around him:
A crowd of people watch him as he shakes his head vigorously.
A crowd of people listening as cusses out Jesus.
A crowd of people taking mental note of his sin.
I wonder how many of those people Peter saw again.
I wonder how that went?
Public guilt is hard.
There’s this thing I receive every Monday called a Call Report. “Call” is a reference to the special “calling” that a ministry worker has to their particularly congregation. The “call report” details any changes in those ministry positions. It’ll say: “Pastor So-and-So retired.” “Pastor what’s-his-face is switching congregations.” And even “Pastor who’s-his-name has decided to remain at his current congregation.”
But every once in a while, it says this:
“Pastor removed for cause.”
To me, it’s a terrifying expression. It means “removed for doing some gross outward sin.” It’s a phrase that no pastor ever wants said about them. It’s terrifying among our pastor circles, because it is a phrase that screams: “Failure.”
And everyone now knows you as…
Not as a brother.
Not as a pastor.
Not even as your first name…
But as “Pastor, Removed for Cause.”
But as a non-pastor you can feel the same thing.
You might have a sin that your family knows about.
That your coworkers know about.
That your friends saw you do.
And now every moment you spend around them is spent like Peter:
Did they see me sin?
Do they know about my guilt?
Do they think of me as SINNER?
Like you’ve got a big old black marker on your forehead everywhere you go that says: “INSERT SIN HERE.”
Public sin is hard.
Any one of these three types of guilt are challenging on their own! If you’re dealing with any of these, they can overload you. Burden you. Suffocate you.
Peter had to deal with all three all at once. That’s an extreme amount of guilt.
And it needs an extreme amount of restoration.
II. Peter’s Restoration
Peter finished up his breakfast.
Another meal done.
Another visitation from Jesus without having to talk about the sinful things that I did.
If I just keep a low profile, stay quiet, and avoid eye contact, I should be able to avoid him altogether.
Peter turned around to find Jesus standing right in front of him.
Face to face.
Eye to eye.
Heart to heart.
“Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
At this point, the conversation seemed a bit too familiar.
Three times? Really?
It reminded him of those three times that he denied Jesus.
Peter said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. (Jn. 21:15-17)
He doesn’t ream Peter out.
He doesn’t kick Peter out.
He doesn’t even respond to Peter’s claims of loving him with: “Umm…No, you didn’t. Remember?”
Jesus doesn’t bring guilt.
He brings restoration.
Restoration to God’s kingdom comes out of Jesus' work.
It didn’t come out of Peter earning it. Peter hadn’t done anything to make up for what he did.
But Jesus did do something.
Jesus did everything.
He lived perfectly when Peter could not.
He died innocently in his place.
He rose triumphantly for the forgiveness of Peter’s sin.
The same is true with you.
If you’ve sinned against God.
If you have repeated guilt.
If you have public guilt.
If you have leader guilt.
Jesus doesn’t make you do something to make up for it.
Jesus did everything for you.
He lived perfectly when you could not.
He died innocently in your place.
He rose triumphantly for the forgiveness of your sin.
Remember earlier – when we talked about having a criminal record and how hard it is to find work with that record. One thing that you can do is you can get your record exponged.
It takes a lot of money.
A lot of time with lawyers. '
A lot of paperwork and a lot of pleading with a judge...
But it is sometimes possible to get it expunged, erased and cleared.
Understand this – Jesus has expunged your record.
He did all the work.
He paid for it completely.
Your guilt is expunged, erased, cleared.
In short – listen to Jesus’ message to you right now:
You are restored to my kingdom.
You are guilt free.
You are forgiven…and…You have work to do.
Restoration to God’s kingdom means Restoration to Kingdom Work.
That’s a bit unexpected. Because the devil would love to have you think:
“OK, fine. You are a part of his kingdom, but…Stay in the back. Go into the corner. Hide. Because you are not worthy of being on the front lines.”
But that’s not what Jesus says.
In Peter’s restoration, He goes straight to telling him to work for his kingdom.
He gives him a job.
He restores him not only to his kingdom, but to work in his kingdom.
And God has done the same for you.
He restored you to his kingdom.
He has restored you to kingdom work.
III. Kingdom Work
And what does that kingdom work look like? You get an idea in Jesus’ instruction to Peter.
Feed His Sheep.
Jesus says that is what true love for him is:
Feed my lambs. (v.15)
Take care of my sheep. (v.16)
Feed my Sheep. (v.17)
Does he own a farm I’ve never heard of?
Did he develop some petting zoo?
Does Jesus have a little lamb whose fleece was white as snow?
When Jesus talks about his lambs and his sheep, he’s talking about his people.
When Jesus talks about feeding those lambs and sheep, he’s talking about sharing the message of reconciliation with others.
You know the same message that gives you hope and comfort…
Give it to others!
Love for Jesus means sharing his message.
Telling your neighbor about Jesus.
Spreading the Gospel to your coworkers.
Sharing forgiveness with a church friend.
Teaching the little children about their Savior.
Inviting the community of North Raleigh to hear of God’s love.
He’s talking about our very mission:
To plant the Message of Jesus in the heart of north Raleigh.
When you are sharing the message of forgiveness, you are caring for sheep.
You’re leading someone to streams of living water.
You’re giving them some of God’s forgiveness.
You’re feeding them a steady diet of “Jesus died for you. Believe in him. You are forgiven.”
Here’s the challenge. The devil will love to convince that we aren’t worthy of sharing the message.
He’ll say that you aren’t qualified for that kind of work.
He’ll say that you are a failure.
He’ll say that you should leave that to others who aren’t as much of a failure.
But here’s the thing about feeding sheep.
It doesn’t matter if the farmer puts the food in the bucket.
It doesn’t matter if the farm hand puts the food into the bucket.
It doesn’t matter some disenfranchised, former farm hand puts the food into the bucket.
The sheep eat the food.
The food nourishes the sheep.
The sheep get the health benefits of the food -- no matter the moral background of the one who put the food into the buckets.
It’s the same with kingdom work.
The power is in the Word.
And those who are a part of kingdom are qualified to work with it.
And you…are an important part of his kingdom work.
Feed his lambs.
Take care of his sheep.
Feed them with the Gospel of Jesus.
We recently got a cat.
I know. I know…this sounds like a confessional.
But, it’s true. After 33 years of claiming that I would never own a cat, I caved, and I did.
And it’s been fun.
She enjoys keeping us safe from any fuzz balls and dust balls that she sees.
She loves to go hunting for leaves.
She even enjoys a playful, piercing bite to my front toe.
But the other day, my wife told me that she had done something crazy. Julianna texted me that we needed to close the windows so that the cat couldn’t climb the screen.
I said, “Yeah. How could she do that?”
Julianna said, “I see holes in the screen right now.”
I said, “Those are probably from bugs or some severe storm.”
She said, “I’m pretty positive it’s from the cat.”
I said, “Oh yeah. Prove it. How do you know?”
My wife texted me a photo of the cat climbing the screen.
Eyewitnesses are important. They are verbal proclaims of the visual truth. They are the difference between…
Fiction and non-fiction.
A fairy tale and history.
A lie and truth.
Over the next couple of weeks, we will be starting our sermon series called EYEWITNESS. It’s all about the eyewitnesses to the resurrection of Jesus. I think we need to do this because the resurrection of Jesus is too big a deal to rely on hearsay, to trust maybes and to listen to theories.
Our goal today is to look at a real eyewitness accounts…
Of real people…
Who had real interactions…
With the really risen Jesus…
As real proof of your real salvation.
Before we begin, 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. Mary’s Background
The first eyewitness account that we are going to look at comes from a woman named Mary Magdalene. What interesting about Mary is that she doesn’t play a big part in Jesus’ three years of ministry on earth. In fact, there’s very little that is written about her except for this:
Mary Magdalene, out of whom Jesus had driven out seven demons. (Mark 16:9)
It’s not even a full sentence. Just a passing adjective comment.
But…one that’s pretty heavy.
She had been possessed by 7 demons. Evil spirits. Fallen angels. Powerful. They had taken hold of her mind. Something that Bible theorists will suggest happens from dabbling in the demonic activity (the occult, psychics, blood sacrifices) and excessive drug use.
Regardless how it happened to Mary, we know it was terrible.
She had no control of her personality.
She was a prisoner in her own mind.
In a state of deep depression.
With a helplessness that doesn’t go away.
Except, it did.
Mary was possessed.
Jesus healed her.
I don’t know exactly how, but if it is anything like Jesus’ other miracles, then it was probably as simple as Jesus lifting his hand and saying:
Which…Can you imagine?
If you’ve ever had a counselor help you with a breakthrough.
Or a pastor help you grasp God’s forgiveness.
Or a fatal diagnosis that a doctor diagnosed, prescribed medicine and helped you defeat.
You know the kind of deep connection that Mary had with Jesus.
That’s why she had become a follower of his:
She had been trapped, Jesus freed her.
She had been guilty, Jesus brought her forgiveness.
She had been depressed, Jesus brought her joy.
She had been lonely, Jesus brought her family.
She had been hopeless, Jesus made her hopeful.
He was violently, publicly, cruelly crucified on a cross.
And all of her hope?
All of her joy?
All of her sanity…
Started to slip away….
She could feel the devil’s grip tightening on her again.
II. The Eyewitness Account
That’s why she got up so early Sunday morning.
You see -- Jesus had been killed Friday evening. They buried him. She would have gone to his grave to mourn, but they have this Sabbath rule where you can’t go to visit the dead on a Saturday.
But Saturday was over.
It was still dark.
It’s not like she was sleeping anyways.
She threw on her sandals.
Fastened on her cloak.
And walked off to her friend’s house.
KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK!
“What do you want?”
“It’s Sunday. We were going to go to his grave. We were going to go to Jesus’ grave so that we can honor him.”
“But Mary. It’s not even light out yet. It’s still night time. It’s…just gonna take me a second while I get ready.”
As they walked through the slowly evaporating darkness, it was mostly quiet.
Whenever her friends tried to make small talk, Mary quieted them. “We’ve just gotta get to Jesus’ grave.”
As they approached the garden, Mary worked into a sprint walk.
She began opening up the bottle of perfume she had brought to pour on his grave and anoint his body.
“Mary, did you think about how we were going to get into the grave? There is that giant stone that the soldiers put there to make sure that no one could get in. I saw some of those guys. They’re built like models. It took about 5 of them to move it, I don’t see how we…”
She stopped talking.
Off in the distance was Jesus’ grave.
The giant stone?
It was moved.
Immediately, Mary burst into tears:
“What did they do? What have they done? They couldn’t just leave him alone. Those jerks! Those losers! How could they do this? How could they leave us like this? Without even a chance…to heal.”
She broke down.
Her friends tried to console her.
But Mary shrugged them off.
She turned around and sprinted back towards town.
She could barely see where she was going with tears clouding her vision.
She made her way to where some of the twelve disciples were staying.
She pounded at the door.
She screamed at the door.
She made a commotion till their let her in:
“They took his body. They took his body. They book his body…the tomb is empty!”
Two of the disciples rushed out.
They sprinted to see what she was saying.
And Mary tried to follow, but she grew too tired.
Her legs got wobbly.
She slammed her back against tree trunk.
And fell to the floor.
After sobbing for a good 15 minutes, She stood up.
She didn’t have any tears left.
She had to get to the bottom of this.
She had to get back to the tomb and find some kind of a clue…a witness…a footprint that would lead her to Jesus’ body.
She went back to the tomb.
Her friends were gone.
The disciples were gone.
The stone…was still gone.
This time…she took a deep breath…and approached the tomb.
Inside the tomb, she found some men.
Dressed in white.
A gleaming, blinding white light.
Radiating from their clothes.
Radiating from their faces.
Both sitting on the bier where Jesus’ body had been.
Between them? Grave clothes. Folded ever so nicely, ever so gently, as if they were no longer necessary.
“Woman, why are you crying?” they asked.
“They have taken my Lord away! And I don’t know where they have put them!”
Mary turned around. The men were nice. And it was strange that they were glowing, but…she didn’t have time. She needed to find his body.
Outside the tomb, someone else.
Hard to tell who – with the tears blurring her vision.
It was probably the gardener.
“Woman, why are you crying?”
This is the one. He must have taken the body. He must have moved it at the requests of the Pharisees!
“Tell me sir. Tell me…Please…Where did you take his body? Why did you leave the grave….empty?”
The air was still.
Mary’s breath paused for a moment.
She had heard that voice before.
She had heard that voice teach her about God.
She had heard that voice proclaim forgiveness.
She had heard that voice drive away her own demons!
It was Jesus!
“Teacher!” She cried as she grabbed a hold of him with a hug.
As she hugged, she knew it was real! She felt his shoulders.
She held him by the back.
She felt the warmth of his breath.
Jesus was alive.
III. Resurrection Truth
This is the eyewitness account of Mary.
It is an eyewitness account that is recorded for us in Scripture.
The guy who wrote it? John – he was one of the disciples that went running to the tomb after Mary told him it was open!
And the book of John? It was written down and passed around at a time when Mary Magdalene would have still been alive.
And she didn’t say “Nah, man. That’s wrong. It didn’t happen this way.”
She said, “That’s the truth.”
There are three really important divine truths that we need to take home with us today.
(1) Jesus Rose from the Dead
Granted. You might be skeptical of that truth.
Because most people when they are dead? They can’t do much. Their bodies just lie there and slowly decompose.
And even people who are living – they haven’t figured out a way to bring people that are dead back to life either.
But if this is true…
When Jesus was dead, he figured out one thing that no one else could ever figure out while they were alive – conquering death itself!
If you’re skeptical, Mary’s account is for you. Because think about how long it took her recognize that Jesus was alive.
She saw the immovable stoned – moved and her first reaction?
“They took his body.”
She went into the tomb and saw two angels –glowing with divine splendor. Her reaction?
“They took his body!”
She went outside the tomb and saw Jesus – but was so overcome with emotion that she says to Jesus,
“You must have taken his body!”
She wasn’t wrong.
It isn’t until Jesus…
Calls her name…
That she realizes the incredible truth right in front of her!
Friends, you might be dealing with sadness.
You might be dealing with difficulties in your marriage.
With challenges at work.
With a financial crisis.
With a terrifying diagnosis.
With guilt, shame, and sin.
And sometimes that can all cover our hearts and close our eyes and make us say, “There is no HOPE in this world! This Jesus’ thing can’t be true.”
When that happens…
Hear Jesus’ voice…
He’s calling to you.
“I am alive.”
(2) The Work of Salvation is Finished
Check out verse 17:
“Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
The reason Jesus came to earth was to win your salvation.
He came to suffer death for your sins.
He came to earn your way to heaven.
He came to pay for eternal life.
If he’s heading up to heaven, guess what?
That work is done.
Granted – that can be hard to believe.
It’s like Easter weekend. Maybe you are planning on having relatives to your house. Maybe you wanted to clean for your relatives -- so you make a check list: Sweep the floor, dust the counters, disinfect the countertops, clean the bathrooms, do the laundry, make the beds, clean up the toys, etc.
And you go to work.
And you come home and….
Your husband says, “Surprise! I did it already. It’s finished. You don’t have to clean anymore!”
How do you respond?
Probably…by sweeping the floor, dusting the counters, disinfecting the countertops, etc.
When Jesus tells you that it is finished.
It is finished.
Your salvation is won.
Your sins are forgiven.
Eternal life is yours.
Heaven is your home!
“It is finished.”
You don’t need to try and earn his love.
You don’t need to complete your salvation.
You don’t need to pay your way into heaven by working hard and becoming perfect.
Jesus did it for you.
(3) Go and Tell
Because right after Mary realizes that Jesus is standing right in front of her…
Having conquered sin and death…
Renewing her hope again…
She’s overcome with emotion.
She holds onto him.
She doesn’t want to ever go back to guilt and loneliness and despair. Never again!
But Jesus says something interesting:
“Do not hold onto me. Instead, go and tell.” (v.17)
Because there were others who had lost their hope.
There were others who were in despair.
There were others who were shacked to guilt.
Mary’s eyewitness message – would change that.
She would give them hope.
She would give them joy.
She would give them freedom.
Friends, there are still people like that today.
There are people who don’t know their Savior.
People who don’t know the resurrection story.
People who think Easter is all about sugary yellow marshmallow chicks
They are overcome with guilt.
They are dealing with a lack of joy.
They are struggling with despair.
Can you do me a favor?
Listen to your Savior.
Go and tell.
Later today at your Easter party, turn to the people who didn’t come to worship to celebrate this message and share the story of Easter. Go and Tell.
Later this evening when you are on your phones, take a note or two from this sermon and share on social media. Go and tell.
Tomorrow morning as you head to work – gather around the coffee pot, talk with your coworkers about why you liked Easter and how amazing this message of the risen Savior is. Go and tell.
And understand this.
You won’t be just giving them a story.
You won’t be just telling them a fairy tale.
You’ll be giving them true hope.
I’ve been experiencing some problems in my prayer life recently.
The things that I pray for don’t seem to be happening.
This has been going on for years!
I prayed for a pony when I was younger; never happened.
I’ve prayed for it to rain Doritos. Not once.
I’ve prayed for a couple million bucks to show up in my bank account. (I don’t know that there’s ever been a million that passed through the account since its inception)
On a more serious note – my wife and I have been praying for a child.
But…we’re about seven years in.
No little pastor.
No little Julianna.
Maybe the same thing has happened to you.
Maybe you’ve asked for something “good” and God has answered with something “bad.”
What’s the deal? Doesn’t God understand how prayer works?
Jesus has something to say on the matter. Check out his words from Matthew 7: “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?”
Think about it:
If your son came up to you with his big, tear-filled eyes and said to you, “Mommy, my tummy’s grumbling. Can I have a piece of bread?” Would any of you say: “Sure, son!” Walk away. Grab a plate, a knife and some butter and then SLAM a big old rock onto the plate. “Bon Appetite!”
If your daughter really wanted a pet and said to you, “Daddy, I want to get a gold fish and name it Princess.” How many of you would say, “Sure, honey. Anything for you.” Get into car, you head to the pet store, and come back with a poisonous King Cobra. “Here you go sweetie. Although…I don’t know if we should name him Princess.”
“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (v.11)
If you then, though you are an imperfect, sin-tainted, selfish human being, know to give a good gift to your child…
What do you think your perfect, holiness-radiating, selfless God will give to you?
God can ONLY give good gifts.
So…what’s the rub then? Why does God’s answers to our prayers sometimes seem disappointing? Two reasons. And they both involve inaccurate assumptions on our part.
(1) Assuming Your Request is Good
Think back to the Doritos prayer. I thought raining Doritos would be good.
It would also ruin the ecosystem, result in my digesting all kinds of germs, and probably ruin the Cool Ranch flavor!
Your child may think they know what is best. They may truly believe that staying up late and eating ice cream is what’s best – it’s certainly what they want most at that moment. However, a father who truly loves his children knows that staying up late and eating ice cream will result in children who don’t feel good shortly after and will have a following 12-hour period of crabbiness. The father looks at the whole picture, and knowing better than his child, may tell his child no – out of love!
The same is true for some of our real deal, difficult requests…
They may not always be centered in ‘goodness.’
They may be centered in “our sinful, imperfectness.”
Back to the prayer for a child.
One of the main reasons that I am praying for one?
I want one.
I want to be a father.
I want to teach them how to play catch.
I want to teach them how to ride a bike.
It sounds nice…
Did you hear what I was praying?
I want…I want…I want.
What about what God wants?
What about God’s desire to increase his eternal family?
What about planting the message of Jesus in the Heart of North Raleigh?
What about God’s desire to shape and mold myself and my wife and grow our faith as we dig deeper into His Word for answers?
What about the fact that I might not know what is good – eternally, absolutely, perfectly…good?
Friends, I don’t know your prayer requests.
But I know you too are an imperfect, broken, human being.
Could it be that our imperfect, broken human heart requests imperfect, broken things from our Father?
Thank God he doesn’t give us exactly what we want.
Thank God that he gives us exactly what is good.
Thank God that when I ask for a snake…God gives me a fish.
Thank God that when I ask for a stone…God gives me some bread.
(2) Assuming God’s Answers Can Be Bad
Because sometimes at the end of your prayers, God’s answer may be, “Yes. Your boyfriend is leaving you.”
Sometimes at the end of your prayers, God’s answer may be, “Yes, you will lose that job.”
Sometimes at the end of your prayers, God’s answer may be, “Yes. It’s confirmed. You have cancer.”
The temptation might be to say, “God, bad answer.”
The reality? God doesn’t give bad answers.
We might not always know how.
We might not always know why.
We might not always know much of anything.
But we do know one certain and sure reality:
God’s answers are only good.
Because God is only good.
Case and point? The cross.
We asked for a Savior.
We asked for God to send someone to help us.
We asked for God to get rid of our guilt, grief, and shame.
We probably pictured some type of superhero-looking guy.
A modern-day Avenger.
With an epic Thor like weapon and luscious, Chris Hemsworth looks.
We didn’t get that.
We got a carpenter’s apprentice.
A guy without a home.
A mild mannered dude who got roughed up and physically beaten on more than one occasion.
He was cursed at.
Arrested, convicted, bloodied, and killed.
And it’s easy to look up at the cross.
At his broken, bloodied, beaten body…
And say, “This can’t be any good. God, you didn’t answer my prayer. God, you don’t know what you’re doing!”
But we’d be wrong.
Because three days, later…
Three days later, Jesus didn’t just beat evil.
He didn’t just destroy sin.
He didn’t just wipe out death forever.
He guaranteed eternal life to you.
Do you see it? God answered your prayers.
Praying for a better life? God answered.
Praying for removal of guilt? God answered.
Praying for a Savior from all the junk you’re dealing with? God answered when he sent Jesus.
And Now? God keeps giving good gifts.
God isn’t hit or miss.
His gifts are always good.
That boyfriend? Could lead you away from faith.
That job? Could distract you from teaching your kids about their Savior.
That cancer? It’s will draw you closer in faith to me AND allow you all kinds of opportunity to witness to your family and friends until you join him in heaven apart from cancer…forever.
Because that’s the ultimate good.
Brothers and sisters, God’s answers all always good. Trust Him.
Whether he gives you some bread, some fish, or an eternal Savior…
God’s answers are always good. Amen.
Join us as we hear about the very special and important message: the arrival of The Light of the World? What does this mean for me? How does it apply to my life today? Listen and find out!
For Humbling Us
Of all the things that get in our own way, pride is our own biggest obstacle. Why? Because it’s entirely unjustified. We are not good. We have nothing good in ourselves. We can produce nothing objectively good. Only God can do that. Only God can make us good. Only God can help us. Only God and his blessings are worth being proud of. When we start to have pride in ourselves, we need to be humbled.
Like Joseph. Joseph had gotten a bit of a big head. Dad liked him best of all his brothers. He had dreams that his family would bow down to him someday, and he was a little too happy to talk about that. And so, God humbled him. God took Joseph from his cushy place as Dad’s darling and sold him into slavery to remind him that he had no power of his own, that everything worth anything comes from God alone.
And so when we get too proud of ourselves, too confident in ourselves, we thank God that he takes the effort to humble us again, to take our power away, to show us how little we have on our own, so that we can return to the source of our real strength, God alone.
19 “Here comes that dreamer!” they said to each other. 20 “Come now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams.” 21 When Reuben heard this, he tried to rescue him from their hands. “Let’s not take his life,” he said. 22 “Don’t shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern here in the wilderness, but don’t lay a hand on him.” Reuben said this to rescue him from them and take him back to his father. 23 So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe—the ornate robe he was wearing—24 and they took him and threw him into the cistern. The cistern was empty; there was no water in it. 25 As they sat down to eat their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with spices, balm and myrrh, and they were on their way to take them down to Egypt.
26 Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? 27 Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.” His brothers agreed.
28 So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt.
For His Own Timing
In an age of microwaves, the internet, smartphones, and other marvels, life has not gotten easier because of the conveniences, it has gotten more hectic. We expect everything immediately. I sent you a message an hour ago! I can’t believe it’ll take a full day before this is ready! These expectations only make life harder on us, we only contribute to it when we expect the same of others. And even moreso when we expect it of our God.
But God has his own timetable. With a perspective of time that we can’t match and wisdom beyond our understanding, God knows exactly when the right time to act is. And despite our best efforts to advise God, the time is not always what we think it should be, which would usually be “now”. God says be patient, I have better in mind for you.
Joseph had to understand this. He probably had hopes that he could be released from prison after helping one of Pharaoh’s own. But the time was not right. We’ll see shortly, he needed to stay where he was for now so that he could be in the right place to deliver a message from God to Pharaoh and in doing so save entire nations starvation.
For Daily Bread
The land of Egypt and surrounding nations were about to be in trouble. There would be seven very good years of harvest, but they would be followed by seven years of drought and famine. Imagine being lulled into the security of seven years of abundance, growing wasteful, and suddenly it’s all taken away from you. Maybe you don’t have to imagine. Maybe you’ve had that moment in your life where it felt like all was lost. But the God of grace and mercy promises to provide. Even to people who did not know him or worship him as God. So God put Joseph in the right place at the right time to warn Pharaoh of what was coming.
We thank God for providing. We are utterly dependent on our God in all ways, but sometimes we forget just how much we depend on him daily, even hourly. We need food and drink. Shelter and clothes. And our God provides daily. We don’t earn it. We don’t deserve it, but our God gives it to us all the same. It doesn’t always come in the way we expect, but our God never lets us down. And for that we give thanks. And we show our thanks by offering part of his gifts back to him.
For Joseph, things seemed to turn out alright. Yes, he had difficulty, but now he was second in command of Egypt. Not bad for starting as a slave. Joseph could have let the power and authority go to his head, but instead he recognized that he was only where he was by God’s hand and that God had only given him this honor in order to serve a greater good, the saving of lives.
It was this attitude that allowed him to face another challenge with a godly attitude; the reunion with his brothers. He had it within his authority to have them jailed the moment he saw them, even executed if he saw fit. But he didn’t. He recognized that he was as much a sinner as they each were. He recognized that through their sinful actions God had worked a greater good as he always does. Such understanding allowed him to face his brothers without anger and instead with forgiveness.
We give thanks to God that he allows the same in us. That by his spirit he creates hearts within us that are able to forgive just as he forgave us. We give great thanks that we are pardoned by the blood of Jesus, but we also give thanks that by his power we are able to release old hurts and grudges and live at peace with those who have wronged us. What a great gift to not need to be burdened and burned up from within by anger and rage but rather to be at peace, knowing that our God worked good for us even through the hurts, and knowing that the blood of Jesus paid for the crimes against us even as it paid for the crimes we ourselves committed. We give thanks that we are able to forgive.
For Our True Home
Despite all the good that happened with Joseph’s life, there was still a problem at the end of it. He wasn’t where he was supposed to be. Egypt was fine, and his family was provided for, but this wasn’t the place that God promised his great-grandfather. As fine as the living was, Joseph knew they wouldn’t stay. And he didn’t want them to stay, it wasn’t what God had in mind for them. Sure enough, down the road that would become very clear when the time came for Moses to lead the people out.
Despite everything that we have to be thankful for here and now, all the blessings God gives us, it is not perfect. It is far from it. Every day has its own pains and heartaches and troubles. Sometimes they pile on so deep and so quickly it could lead a person to despair. And so, we give thanks to our God that we are not staying here. This is not our true home, that is still to come.
There is much to be thankful for here and reasons to be happy while here. But we give thanks that God keeps our eyes down the path, in good times and bad, looking ahead to our true home that he has promised us. It is our greatest encouragement in all parts of life, that by the blood of Jesus we have an eternity with God to look forward to.
For the Savior
You might be surprised to hear that for as much attention as Joseph gets in the Bible, he’s not actually part of the line of the savior. That was his brother, Judah. Still, his life did serve one very important purpose. His actions and intervention during the Egyptian famine ensured that his family did not starve. His brothers lived, and their families lived. And through Judah, down through the line, was eventually born David the King and through David’s line was the ancestry of both Joseph and Mary, and from them, Jesus.
God made a promise in Eden, that someone would come to crush the serpent’s head. Jesus has done this for us. By Jesus we are saved. By Jesus are sins forgiven. By Jesus is the eternal home opened to us. Without him, this would all be meaningless. All the other things we might be thankful for are just dust in the wind, here and gone. Without Jesus the eternal gifts would not exist. Without Jesus we would have pale comforts for a short time until an eternal death.
And so more than anything this evening and every day, we give thanks for the Savior. We could lose everything, have all our earthly possessions taken from us, our family dead or gone, our health destroyed and be in pain every moment the rest of our lives and we could STILL be thankful, because it will end and Jesus will take us home. Above everything and at every moment, we give thanks for the savior Jesus.
1. The Story
Even if all fall away – I will not! (Mk. 14:29)
Peter’s own words echoed in his thoughts – a type of orchestral accompaniment to the crackling of the courtyard fire. He rubs his hands together. It was cold, and it was late. But he had to be here. He said that he would.
Yes – hours ago he had fled.
Yes – hours ago he had run away.
But there were swords.
There were clubs.
There were torches.
Those men were ready to kill them all!
That’s why he ran.
But…it was just a momentary thing. He was surprised that’s all. Now he was in it for the long haul. Now he would stay put. Now he would be at Jesus’ side – no matter what happens.
TAP, TAP, TAP
Peter turned in a fright – fists up, ready to fight. “Who are you?” His eyes were at 6-foot level – expecting a big, muscular, tattooed Roman killing machine.
Instead, he had to look down.
It was a teenage girl. 13? 14? She was a servant in this courtyard. Carrying nothing more than a few towels that were folded nicely and needed in the priests’ courtroom for tomorrow morning.
“Excuse me sir…You…you also were with that Nazarene, Jesus.” (v.67)
Peter’s mind started racing. “Tell her that yes you are. Tell her that you are his disciple. Tell her what you told Jesus that you’ll stand with him until the end. Tell her that…”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” (v.68)
The girl looked him up and down one more time. Furled her brow and shrugged before she walked away.
Phew! That was close. She could have told soldiers and I could be on death trial too…but no, no, no! That was wrong. That’s not what I wanted to do. That’s not what I wanted to say. That’s not what I told Jesus I would do.
Peter shook his head as he backed away from the fire. He moved to an archway where it was darker. He could regroup. He could relax. He could – hide his face from being recognized again.
A few minutes later the same servant girl walked by again. She walked past…and then backtracked to tell a few other servants. “This fellow is one of them...I’m sure of it.” (v. 69)
Yep! She’s right. I just have to tell the truth. I just have to stand up for my Savior. I just have to do what I’d said – it’s my chance to make things right. It’s my chance to say “YES!” To say “Yes, I know him! Yes, I follow him! Yes, I am with him!”
After a moment of pumping himself up, Peter interrupted their conversation:
“No, I don’t know him. No, I don’t follow him. No, I am not with this Jesus guy.”
O-kay…the girl replied and moved along with her friends. Peter retreated to the corner. She could have ruined everything. She could have gotten me killed. Why does she care whom I am with anyways?
Because you’re with someone incredible!
You’re with a man who makes the blind see.
You’re with a man who makes the deaf hear.
You’re with a man who healed your own mother-in-law!
You’re with a man who helped you walk on water.
You’re with the man you identified as the Messiah.
Stop disowning him. Start owning him!
Meanwhile, Peter’s inner dialogue was interrupted. The people who had overheard the servant girl’s accusations were whispering amongst themselves:
I think he is.
I think I saw him at the palm celebration earlier this week.
Yeah – and he’s got an accent.
A Galilean one.
Like – one who would follow Jesus of Galilee.
Peter turned his face around and pretended to be fiddling with a mark on the stone wall.
“Excuse me, sir. But we think the girl was right. Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” (v.70b)
Peter took a deep breath.
This was it. This was his chance. This was his chance for redemption. A chance to stand by the man who stood by him.
Because Jesus never denied him. Not before he knew him – when he was a cold-hearted sinner – a foul mouthed, lust filled, apathetic about religion fishermen – Jesus didn’t disown him, but owned him.
And when he messed up, when he said stupid things, when he spoke out of turn and…sinned.
Jesus didn’t leave him.
He called him his own.
He called him his disciple.
He called him – his brother.
Now it was time to call Jesus – “his”.
Peter took a deep breath and spoke…
“In the name of heaven above, I swear to you as God is my witness that I don’t know this man you’re talking about! Leave me alone. I don’t know him. I’m not his disciple. I’m not his brother. I’m not a part of his followers. I know nothing about him! For all I know and care – he’s a criminal and he deserves the death sentence that he’s gonna get. Just leave me alone.” (v.71)
Cock-a-doodle-doo! --- Peter’s soliloquy was interrupted by a barnyard alarm clock.
And instantly, he remembered Jesus’ prediction: “Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.” (v.72)
And the crowd – backed up. “Okay. Okay dude. Whatever you say.”
Then, they left him.
And Peter was alone.
Alone…with his thoughts.
Alone…with his guilt.
Alone…just like he said.
And he broke down and wept. (v.72)
2. The Lesson
There may not be in a story in the Bible that is more human.
That is more unimpressive.
That is more…
Because I love Jesus!
I love that he’s my Savior.
I love that he’s my God.
I love that he died on the cross for me…
And I here in worship and in front of all of you, I promise I will love him, always stand for him and never deny him.
Away from worship.
Away from a crowd of Christians.
In the real world.
I see them coming.
Not torches and swords.
Angry commenters on blogs.
Disapproving looks at Starbucks.
“You’ve been blocked,” messages from former Facebook friends.
And out come the denials:
“Me? For work? I’m just a teacher – about stuff.”
“And yes…I’m’ a Christian, but not one of those. I don’t believe all those things that crazy Christians do.”
“Yes, I know Jesus said that was a sin, but he didn’t mean it. And I don’t believe it.”
And then, the guilt.
I just denied my Savior.
I just denied my ticket to eternity.
I just denied my best friend.
But that’s not the end of the story.
Because the story doesn’t end with Peter’s denial of Jesus.
The story ends with Jesus’ non-denial of Peter, the denier.
The story ends with Jesus’ non-denial of Phil, the denier.
The story ends with Jesus’ non-denial of (insert your name here), the denier.
Because Jesus could have said “I’m not dying for that dude.”
He could have said, “You aren’t my follower? Good then I’ll just go back to heaven.”
He could have said, “My words aren’t important – then I won’t pronounce you forgiven.”
But he didn’t.
He went to the cross.
He suffered for your sake.
He died in order to save you.
And now – in spite of our past denials – in spite of our past sins – Jesus does not deny you.
“This…this is my brother.”
“She? She is my sister.”
“He is my dear friend.”
“She is family.”
Jesus doesn’t deny deniers of days past; he declares disassociation of God’s denial with his drastic death.
In other words:
He forgives you.
3. What Now?
Claim him as your Savior.
Claim him as your leader.
Claim him as your brother, your Messiah, your friend.
Claim him to your family.
Claim him to your friends.
Claim him to that guy on Facebook whom you will never see again.
Claim the one who did not deny you.
Claim the one who will never deny you.
Claim the one who cannot deny you – because he’s written your name into the book of life itself.
To God be the glory! Amen.
So... how’s life? Everything cruising along just fine? Nothing troubling or difficult come up lately?
I’m going to guess that's not the case. I’m going to guess that you've got at least one something, probably many somethings that are giving you grief and potentially causing some lost sleep, robbing you of some peace of mind, and just overall taking up your time and energy that you’d rather be spending elsewhere. How are you handling that? Are you trying to face it, confront it, and put it to bed? It’ll be hard but at least you’ll have won and probably come out the other side with something good to show for it. Or are you trying to just figure out some way to get the issue rid of, forget about it, take it out of your life and move on? No victory there but at least there’s no cost to you in fighting it.
It can be a tough call when we face a challenge to balance that risk/reward relationship, to decide if the fight is worth it. There’s a branch of the path that costs us something but we benefit at the end… or we choose not to fight and there’s no immediate cost.
But there is one of those choices in our lives that’s kind of a no-brainer. The difficult side is full of hardship that you wouldn't deal with if you chose the other branch of the path. It's full of self-sacrifice, pain, and ridicule. And the reward you earn for walking it is: absolutely nothing. Plenty of pain, no gain. All you can see is that one side is going to cost you, the other side doesn’t.
When I talk here about a difficult path versus an easy one, I'm speaking of course about the difference between being a disciple of Jesus, following him, or not. Now, I’m speaking about this like it's a one-time choice but it's not. It's really a fork in the road that we face a dozen or more times every single day. We usually don't think about it in such conscious terms, but this is really what we're facing.
The moment approaches when we have a decision to make. On the one side is the path that God calls us to follow as his disciple. To think, act, or speak as he’s taught us. It’s the path that costs us something. If you go down that road, you’ll have to give up… something. You’ll have to give up some of your time or your treasures or your pride or your peace. You’ll have to endure some kind of emotional or physical pain. And at the end of that branch you will have received nothing you do not already have. No benefit. The other branch is a straight line, level ground, no trouble and it looks like it ends at the same place, but there’s no cost. So really, no-brainer.
You’re at work and overhear a conversation where a co-worker is bashing the church. He can’t stand how they’re deluding people constantly. And for what? They’re only after your money and they’re all filled with hypocrites who don’t practice what they preach. The easy path is to stay quiet. Maybe pass a little silent judgment on the person, be sure to treat them a little differently from now on. Mark that person in your mind as a fool. God’s path instead says to look at that person with compassion. To give up pride of thinking yourself better because that could just as easily be you. And to give up the safety of staying silent but rather in love inviting the coworker to come and see that they might be mistaken in their assumptions of the church. Isn’t just easier to stay quiet?
It’s payday. In fact, it’s a special payday because this paycheck has a bonus and a raise attached. The easy path is to think of all the things you can do for yourself or your family now. Pay off some debt? Take a vacation? Remodel a bit like you always wanted? Maybe just rework the budget to have more spending money each month. After all, you’ve earned it. God’s path tells you that you did not earn it. That he gave that to you. And he asks you to set aside some of the things you want to show him thanks first. To give to him in proportion to how much he’s given you. And that means giving up some of those dreams of things you want. Wouldn’t be easier just to keep it for yourself?
Someone close to you is rude. Heartless. Hurts you through indifference. And it keeps happening. The easy path is to be angry. To hurt them back. To badmouth them to others. To carry a grudge and hold a bad opinion of them. God says love even those who hurt you. God says leave justice and judgment and vengeance to him. God says to speak well of everyone, to hold your tongue even when the bad stuff is true. But God’s path means giving up your hurt pride, it means letting go of the pain and anger. It means abandoning the idea that this person is “bad”. But isn’t it easier to just stay angry at the bad people?
We face moments like these constantly, and when you look at it like that the decision seems obvious. One path costs, the other path is free. Even for the Christian, there does not appear to be a tangible reward for choosing the path that costs. You do not come out the end “more saved” than you already were. You are already forgiven, right? God already loves you, he already died for you, so... you don’t get anything more for making yourself miserable by paying the cost of his path right?
It’s a compelling argument. I hope I didn’t make it too compelling for you. It is what is whispered in our ear. It is what the devil would love for us to listen to. And it's very tempting. Don’t go that way, it’s not worth it. But it is short-sighted, in the moment, and ignores the larger picture of our salvation. Being a disciple of Jesus means carrying this cross, this cost of following him. It is a necessary part of the experience.
Jesus says as much in our Gospel that we just read. He tells us, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
So just in case it isn’t already clear, let’s start with the obvious question: What is our cross? Sometimes we like to think that it is just everything unpleasant that we endure in this life, but that’s not exactly accurate. Not that God doesn’t have something to say about those things, but that’s not really what we’re talking about here. When Jesus calls for you to take up your cross and follow him, he’s talking about the cost of being his disciple. He’s talking about what you endure, what you suffer, what you give up as a result of choosing the path that he’s on instead of the world’s.
Your cross can be as overt as the ridicule you endure from family or coworkers over the fact that you believe in some magical God who created the world in seven days. It can be as difficult as giving up your time or your money because God asks it. It can be as subtle as just giving up your right to feel like you’re justified in your anger and judgment of another person. Whatever it costs you to follow the path of the disciple, that’s your cross.
So, what makes it so necessary? After all, we say that God’s forgiveness is full and free right? Freely given, without cost or demand. And all this before we even come to know him. If the forgiveness is given first, what makes taking up the cross such a vital part of being Jesus’ disciple?
I could go into the scriptural definition and explanation, about how faith is a living gift from God and faith by its definition shows itself in actions that love God more than yourself and making those choices for God is just a natural result of having faith. But let’s maybe approach it a little more simply, in a terms that are easier to grasp with the theme we’ve been using: Disciple.
So here is the plain question: what kind of disciple are you if you refuse to follow the instructions of your teacher? What if you were learning a trade under a master and every direction he gave, you ignored it and did things the way you thought would work better instead? Not only would that make you foolish for not listening to the one who had the experience, who actually knew better, but it wouldn't make you much of a disciple either. In fact, if you kept up that behavior you probably wouldn't be retained as a disciple for very long.
That might be a little less than encouraging if you're anything like me. After all, I know how I make my choices. Sure, sometimes I listen to Jesus and accept the cross that comes with his path. But more often than I want to admit, I take the road that looks easier and costs me less. And if that’s the kind of disciple I am, one that says “no thanks” to the cross when it looks uncomfortable, then what hope do I have?
The best kind, actually. Take a look at what the Apostle Paul has to say in our reading today:
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
In a very real sense, it’s encouraging when you can’t do the work in front of you. Why? Because that's the point of Jesus. You are not the treasure, you are the jar of clay. Unimpressive, worthless, ugly. That’s okay. Because you are filled with the treasure. The treasure is Jesus.
Jesus took up his literal cross for you. He carried it to Calvary. He let himself be hung on it. And there he took up your cross. He took the real cost on himself. The payment you owed for every failure to be his disciple. Every time you took the selfish path created a debt to God. Jesus took the debt and paid it in blood. As he endured the pain of Hell itself he paid your price, he carried your cross for you.
Jesus’ death and resurrection means that in the eyes of the Father you have always carried your cross perfectly. You are filled with the treasure that he has won for you, and that treasure can never be spent out. There is always more there than you will ever need, it is an eternity of God’s treasure filling you up. The outside is attacked, there is cost demanded, but the treasure never runs out. The final part of our reading for today points out some vital truths as we prepare to shoulder our cross in the world:
13 It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. 15 All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Truth number one: we believe, therefore we speak. Faith speaks, faith shows itself. Being a disciple of Jesus means that you follow his teachings and that means even when there's a cost. Because he paid your cost. For the believer it is as natural as the sun rising and the flowers blooming.
Truth number two: outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. Here is a far more important fact about the costs of being a disciple. You are not the one paying them. Because everything God asks of you, every cost to every cross you must carry, it's all paid out of what God has given you. All you have, and all you are you have only because he's given it to you. All your time, all your treasures, all your strength within and without come from him. And so whatever the cost of following him is, he's given you enough to pay that price. However difficult that cross may look to carry, he's standing right there with you ready to shoulder the burden. It's not really on you.
And truth number three: our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. Being a disciple of Jesus is listening to him and putting what he says into action. Even if there’s a cost. Because the fact is that in his discipline, he is the master. He knows the best ways. He knows what will actually spare you the most pain and bring you the most blessing. You just might not be able to see it.
So instead of looking at what the paths might look like to you, we trust his judgment. We fix our eyes not on what is seen but what is unseen. Jesus has shouldered your cross. He continues to give you everything you need to bear it. And his path leads to eternal glory in heaven. Don’t trust what you see, trust the one who saved you. So what now? You’re a disciple of Jesus. Pick up your cross, go out there, and follow him. Amen.
John was excited.
Jesus was really on fire today. He was making some awesome promises and giving these people some incredible things to think about. Like a divine Presidential candidate, he was firing on all cylinders – He promised eternal life. He promised forgiveness. He promised peace with God.
This was good. Because, as much as he loved his friends, it would be nice to get some new blood in there. 12 just wasn’t a lot and there were only so many times he could listen to Peter’s best fish stories. They could use some more followers.
John turned around excited to see how well this speech was going.
He was shocked. Some were shaking their heads. Many had looks of disgust on their face. Others were leaving. The fast expanding hollowness of the synagogue picked up every last footstep as it left the building.
Why? Why were they leaving?
I. Too Tough to be True?
Take a look at what verse 61 says, “On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” Notice it says, “Many.” As opposed to just a few, there were many. The majority of the people there in the synagogue listening to Jesus, didn’t believe him.
It wasn’t like the crowd was filled with just Jesus’ enemies either. It says “many of his disciples.” Not the Pharisees who planned his death. Not the Sadducees who supported his death. Not the teachers of the Law, not atheists, not evolutionists, not polytheists. It was people who were following him.
They called Jesus’ teaching tough. That was their explanation. “His teaching was too difficult.” Why was it too difficult for them? Here are a few reasons:
1) Because of Who Jesus Was
Jesus was a regular Jewish guy. He was a carpenter. He wasn’t rich. He didn’t have a degree. He wasn’t even a Pharisee or a Sadducee. He didn’t have a title. He didn’t have a degree. He didn’t spend years out on a mountain searching for the meaning of life. Nor did he hide in a monastery for 15 years of silence nor is there any record of him being a Big muscular, Mr. Universe, strongman type.
Jesus appeared to be so…plain.
Do any of you know who Arielle Barill is? She is an 11 year old girl who appeared on America’s Got Talent this season. Her audition is very interesting. She entered the stage like so many had before. She looked very plain. Nothing fancy. Probably after a long dryspell of talent the judges were a little restless. “Go ahead” they say without a lot of confidence that this will be worth their while.
Then, she opened her mouth. She sang some of the most beautiful opera I’ve ever heard – and I don’t even like opera! She looked like nothing, but she was something.
Same thing with Jesus. Jesus looked like nothing but He was everything. Yet people only saw the ‘nothing.’ So they disregarded him.
The same thing might be happening with you. Jesus isn’t a flashy politician. He isn’t a respected talking head on Fox News. He isn’t a cool rapper. He isn’t a famous movie star. He doesn’t make it into People on a weekly basis. He doesn’t have as many followers on Instagram as Kim Kardashian.
He’s a guy who lived along time ago and was sentenced to death. Do we really want to listen to Him?
God forgive us for trusting our sight more than your Word.
2) Because of What He Taught
The second reason they were having problems with Jesus couples with the fact that Jesus didn’t look like much. What he taught was very tough. Below are just a few of his incredible, audacious statements:
· v.35 I am the Bread of Life…whoever eats of me will never go hungry again
· v.39 God wants me to raise up believers on the last day
· v.40 I will raise them up on the last day
· v.47 All who believe (in me) have eternal life.
· v.50 I am…from heaven.
· v.53 You must eat of me, if not, then there is no life in you!
When’s the last time you said something like that? When’s the last time you told a coworker, “You went to Cousins Subs? They’re good. But if you want a sandwich that really fills you up, take a bite out of me!” Or have you ever written down on an application for a credit card that your address was “Heaven” and your birthday was “before eternity"? Or have you ever went to visit a relative in the hospital and said, “If the doctor’s don’t do a good job fixing you, I’ll bring you back to life when it’s over."?
Can you understand why these statements would have been shocking to the people at Jesus’ time?
To be honest, they are still shocking today. People treat them accordingly.
Ever heard of the Thomas Jefferson Bible? It’s pretty interesting. Jefferson took the four Gospels--Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and developed a chronological, comprehensive telling of the Gospel story. All four books rolled into one.
I got my hands on a copy the other day. I skimmed to the end. Wanna know how Thomas Jefferson’s Gospel ends? “They laid Jesus in the grave and rolled a great stone in front of it.”
Did you notice something about that? Is it missing anything? Maybe an incredible earth shattering event three day later where Jesus rises from the dead and appears to over 500 people in a variety of places, at a variety of times, in a variety of ways.
Thomas Jefferson deleted that. He didn’t believe it. In fact, he deletes every miracle in the New Testament and every reference of Jesus to himself as the “Son of God.”
That’s Jefferson’s Bible. But…what about your version? What offensive parts have you dropped? What embarrassing truths do you hide? What ‘intolerant looking laws’ do you ‘fail to mention?
God forgive us when we trust our own sinful reasoning more than the surety of your promises.
3) Because of Peer Pressure
Of course one of the biggest reasons that so many people leave Jesus at this time is probably not their own opinion, but the opinions of others.
You’re sticking around and listening to Jesus? I don’t know who’s a bigger lunatic? You or him.
You’re buying what this guy is saying? You’re stupid.
If you are going to hang out with him, then know that I am not going to hang out with you.
Following Jesus was not the cool thing to do. Not then. Not now.
Tell me if this doesn’t happen to you on Facebook:
Hmmm. Let’s see. What should I post today? I’m really thankful that God has made this day, but…I don’t want to offend my angry atheist cousin. I did really like that devotion, but it implied that the Bible was right in teaching homosexuality as a sin…I don’t want to lose any friends. There’s a nice photo of Jesus with the children, but I know Uncle Joe will just leave a rude remark. Hmmm. Hmmm. I know…. Funny cat video.
Peer pressure’s a tough thing.
God forgive us if we let it affect our faith in you.
4) The REAL Reason
Of course – Jesus wanted the crowd –and us—to dig deeper. Listen to what Jesus says in verse 62 “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before!” I love that first part. “Do you find it tough to believe that I am the Son of God? What about when I lift off of the ground before your very eyes, a glorious light shines from above, cherubim and seraphim escort me into the divine halls of heaven itself? Would you believe then?”
But then look at verse “63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing.” Stop trusting your own sinful reason. Your own sinful eyes. Your own sinful peers. Stop trusting your own sinful self. Because (this is key) your own sinful self doesn’t even have the capability to believe. “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”
In other words – the real reason that humans pass up the most glorious, incredible, life giving, sin forgiving, guilt removing, God’s love proving message of all time is IT’S WHO THEY ARE!
Think about it. Humans are sinners. All of us. Sin means rebellion from God. Sin doesn’t believe God. Sin refuses to trust God. Sin does not believe.
On our own, that's what we are. Unbelievers. And what does unbelief do? It UNBELIEVES. It convinces itself it doesn’t need a Savior and it doesn’t need saving and it’s doing just fine. Unbelief rejects Jesus’ teachings!
Here’s where it gets interesting. The word used for ‘teaching’ here is logos. It’s a Greek word that means “word” or “teaching.” This is the exact same Greek word that the Apostle John earlier in this very Gospel used to describe Jesus. “The Logos.”
This means that the people were rejecting not just Jesus’ teachings – but Jesus himself! When we reject Jesus’ teachings – we reject Jesus himself!
God forgive us for our rejection!
II. Too True & Too Marvelous to be Too Difficult!
The doors of the synagogue shut.
Jesus stared off in sadness. He had spoken the truth. He had told them of sin. He had told them he was the Savior. They didn’t believe them. It hurt. It hurt him now; it would hurt them later.
He turned around, wiping away a tear, and was shocked. There they were – Peter, Andrew, James, John, Thomas, Matthew, Philip, Bartholomew, James, Jude, Simon, and Judas. His 12 friends. His 12 disciples. They were still there.
67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
For the disciples, this faith was too true to be too tough.
1) Because of Jesus’ Words
Listen again to Peter’s two reasons. First he says, “You have the words of eternal life.”
Has anyone here seen the show House? It’s an interesting show. It’s about a Doctor who has a terrible bedside manner. He is selfish. He is rude. He isn’t any fun to work with.
But people come to him – far and wide. Why? Because he is brilliant. He solves medical mysteris that no one else can!
Jesus solves medical mysteries that even House can’t solve. Jesus solves sin. Jesus solves death. Even if coming to Jesus means that you have to admit some difficult things, He is worth it.
Like the Brussel sprouts I used for the kids devotion. They are bitter. They don’t taste great. (In my opinion, mom.) Yet they bring great health benefits. The same is true with Jesus. If we swallow the bitter pill that says, “I am a sinner; I need a Savior; You Jesus are that Savior.” The benefits are incredible!
It starts with forgiveness right now. To hear your Savior speak to your sinful heart and say, “You are forgiven. You are forgiven for rejecting my teachings. You are forgiven for falling to peer pressure. You are forgiven for doubting me. Be at peace. We’re cool. I will always love you.”
The blessings continue in heaven.
Ever had a sliver? Slivers aren’t cool. They hurt. They can be a bother to get out. You might use a tweezers or a needle. My mom used alcohol – it felt like torture.
There are no slivers in heaven. In heaven, arthritis is no more. Kidney struggles are gone. Terrorism is conquered. Hate is removed. Racism is non existent. Fear is too afraid to show its face. Guilt is evaporated. Sin is unwelcomed. The devil is banished. Death is dead!
2) Because He is the Son of God
Peter continued, “We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
For Peter – maybe it was earlier that very morning, when they were stuck on a boat in the middle of a stormy lake and they saw Jesus come walking towards them on top of the water! Or maybe it was when Jesus called to Him and enabled Peter to walk on the water as well. Or maybe it was the feeding of the 5000 that had happened just before that with a few loaves of bread and two fish. Or maybe it was the miraculous healing of the blind man, or the deaf man or the lame man or the leprous men or the boy who had an evil spirit or his mother-in-law who had a fever.
Jesus had convinced the disciples he was the Son of God by doing things that only the Son of God could do!
Including speaking the Word of Life. Literally. Whether it was “Little girl, get up!” as he grabbed the dead girl's hand and returned her to her family alive. Or “Young man, get up!” as he helped him off of his coffin in the midst of his own funeral procession. Or “Lazarus, come out,” as he called into the grave that Lazarus’ dead body had been placed into almost a week ago. Or when he said, “Destroy this body in three days and I will raise it again.” They did...destroy him. Three days…did pass. He did….rise again.
Jesus spoke the Words of Life, because he was the Son of God! Trust Him.
Your evolution profession? Not God’s Son. The angry atheist blogger? Not God’s Son. The LGBT activist? Not God’s Son. Your doubting family members? Not God’s Son. You? Not God’s Son. Neither are your feelings, your reasons, or your desires.
Jesus is! Don’t choose to follow an ‘easier’ teaching; choose to follow the only teaching.
Because, and this is incredible, look at the last thing Jesus says to his disciples, “Haven’t I chosen you?” This is strange. Usually you stroll down the grocery aisle and you choose what kind of bread you want to take home to your kids.
But Jesus? He chooses you. Rather…he has chosen you. He has chosen you to hear his message of Grace. If you have faith in Him, then know that he has chosen you to be his child. He has chosen you to live. He has chosen you to be His.
Trust Him. Trust Him, because what he has to say is too true and too marvelous to be too tough.
I have this app on my smartphone called "ToDoist." It keeps track of tasks that I am going to do each day of the week. Each time I finish a task, I swipe it off as complete.
This past week I didn’t get much done Monday-Wednesday. I was at a Pastor’s Conference in New Jersey. It turns out that 18 hours listening to corny jokes from 5 other pastors is not conducive to getting a lot of work done. So my Todoist list had stock piled. But, as I looked at it again and again Wednesday evening, I was confident that I had a good plan for getting all of my tasks done the next day.
Then, Thursday happened. An unexpected meeting here. A longer phone call there. A few conversations that lasted a little longer than I thought...and suddenly, my Thursday Todoist "to do list" looked the exact same as the Friday list...only with few more tasks than before.
I had such a good plan to get everything done, but it failed.
Ever happen to you? Ever plan to do something only to watch your plans fail?
Did you know that God plans too? In fact, while Jesus was on earth he told his disciples about God's plan. John 3:16 gives it to us in a nutshell: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life."
But then, Jesus died. Life happened. Death happened. The question is: Had God's plan failed? Can God’s plans fail?
I. When God's Plan Appears to Fail.
This appears to have been the basic premise of the disciple's conversation on the Road to Emmaus. Scripture tells us "They were talking with each other about everything that had happened." And later "That their faces were downcast." Their Messiah had died. God's plan had failed. They would never see him again.
Then, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them.
But what's interesting is that Scripture says: They were kept from recognizing him. It isn't like Mary Magdalene whose grief and tears prevented her from recognizing her Savior. They were kept from recognizing him by God. By Jesus.
Why did Jesus do that? Presumably for two reasons:
1) He wanted to give them an opportunity to voice their faith. Think about Adam and Eve in the Garden. God asks, "Where are you?" Not because he didn't know, but because he wanted to give them a chance to fess up to their sins. At the feeding of the 5,000 Jesus had asked Philip, "How will we feed these people?" Not because he didn't know that he was about to perform a miracle, but because he wanted to Philip to voice his confidence in that miracle.
Jesus is doing the same thing with the Emmaus disciples. He wants them to have a chance to voice their faith in God's plan.
But just like all those other times, the Emmaus disciples don't voice faith. They only voice their disappointment with God and his plan.
They explain that they were talking about: “Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”
Isn't it interesting? They mention the third day, a part of God's plan to raise Jesus from the dead. They mention the women seeing an empty tomb. They mention that a few disciples had confirmed this. But they still did not believe God's plan had worked. Look at verse 21. It's most telling, "We had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel."
As in: "They didn't believe it anymore. The plan didn't work. They were still under Roman rule. Their lives still felt the same. In fact, they were probably crummier. They had wasted time and effort believing this Jesus was a part of God's plan, and now that plan wasn't working."
Ever felt disappointed with God? Ever felt like God's plan has failed you? Maybe it sounds like this:
"I was supposed to have a career! I was supposed to climb up the corporate ladder. Instead, I'm stuck in my first job at a pay rate much lower than I expected and I don't have any hope of climbing out of it. God, your plan, must have failed!"
"God, I thought, you "knew the plans you have me, plans to prosper and not to harm me..." Then, why can't I find the right guy? Why am I still single? Why are all the people I date 'Sleazeballs?" God! Your plan is not prospering, but harming me!
"My marriage isn't happy all the time. There is tough stuff we go through. God. That can't be your plan. Which must mean that your plan has failed!"
"My relative is super sick. They are suffering. God is love. He doesn't like suffering. Which can only mean that he can't stop the suffering and his plan is failing!"
Now. Stop and think with me. Is God that bad at planning? Is the ruler of all eternity that poor at future planning? Of course not.
Listen to this carefully. God’s plan’s don’t fail, we simply fail to see God’s plans.
II. We Simply Fail to See God's Plan
This is exactly the problem that the Emmaus disciples had. They expected God's plan to be that Jesus would rid them of Roman rule, they themselves would become officials in his kingdom, and life on earth would become 'awesome.'
When Jesus died and this didn't happen, they felt terrible.
But listen to Jesus' assessment: 25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
If you wanted to build a house, an architect makes a blueprint for the contractor and everyone he works with to follow. If they want to know where the support beams are supposed to be, they look at the blueprint. If the electrician is wondering how many outlets to run in the living room, they look at the blueprint. If the homeowner has a complaint about the window sill being placed too low on the wall, they look at the blueprint to see if it's valid.
A second reason that Jesus didn't show himself to these disciples right away is that he wanted to teach them where to look for God's plan. He wanted to show them the Almighty's Divine blueprint. It showed them, at that time, the Old Testament Scriptures which contained a detailed explanation of God's plan.
Through the prophets God gave his people details about the coming Savior so that they wouldn’t miss his coming. Malachi said where Jesus would be born. Zechariah foretold how Jesus would be betrayed for 30 silver pieces. Psalm 22 detailed how he would be crucified, how they would cast lots for his clothes.
Various scriptures talk about God's son had to die. Which in reality as it happened, must have seemed awful. But it needed to happen. It was God's plan. Isaiah 53 explains it beautifully. Memorize this passage. Commit it to memory. He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
This is God’s greatest plan. He desires to save you from hell. He wants you in heaven. So, no wonder, he doesn’t always take care to make sure that you have the roomiest house, the fanciest car, and the big scholarship to school. When push comes to shove, God wants you in heaven! That’s his goal. It’s his plan. It’s his desire!
When the disciples realized that Jesus’ death was a part of this plan, do you know what the result was? Verse 32 reports that the disciples confessed: “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
What had changed? The Romans were still rotten. The taxes were oppressive. The Jewish leaders were corrupt. What changed was that the Holy Spirit through the Scriptures had opened their minds. They understood God's plan. They understood that it had worked. They understood that God's plan was way better than anything they had imagined. It didn't just involved a perfect marriage, a good job, and the latest electronic always in your possession.
It involved eternity. It involved forgiveness. It involved escape from eternal hell. It involved the promise of heaven.
III. God's Plan is Alive and Well
Now the disciples understood something. They understood that God's plan was alive and well. But they didn't grasp exactly how alive and well God's plan was until later that night: 30 When Jesus was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.
Brothers and sisters, recognize that God's plan for you is alive and well. He lives! Because he lives, so does God's plan for you. It doesn't matter what happens in our lives. It doesn't matter how sin gets the best of us. It doesn't matter what evil can do to us! The LORD lives! Our divine planner lives AND he is still in control. And I'll tell you what...that takes trust! It takes trust cause you aren't in control.
Ever been to a financial planner? That's hard to do. You know lots about your money. You know lots about what you want to do with it. Nobody likes to be told how to plan their future.
But...I recommend you see one. Planning finances is their job. They understand economy. They understand stocks, investments, and bond value. They're professionals at planning money. It's what they do. Trust them.
God's a professional at what he does too. He's a professional at planning for your eternal well being. It involved sending his Son to die and giving him power to rise again. He knew what he was doing then and he knows what he is doing no.
I know it's hard to give up control of your life and to totally trust God. It’s your life! But consider this: He's smarter than you. He's more powerful than you. He's been around longer than you. He loves more than you. He loves you more than you.
Trust Him. His plans don’t fail. His plans are good. His plans are alive and well. Amen.