Last week we began our sermon series called VICTORY and were reminded how Jesus won the VICTORY over death with his glorious resurrection. Today we’re going back to the very first Easter to learn something else that Jesus gives use victory over. Before we do that, a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth. Your Word is the truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; open our ears to hear what you want us to hear; and open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. When Fear Reigns
On the evening of that first day of the week, the disciples were together…(Jn. 20:19)
I don’t think I’ve ever read this portion of Scripture before and felt so envious.
They weren’t practicing social distancing.
They got to be together.
They didn’t have to ZOOM.
They didn’t have to log on to YouTube.
Andrew didn’t have to tell Peter to turn his sound off when he wasn’t talking so that you could hear James the Less.
The disciples were together.
They weren’t having a meal.
They weren’t playing Settlers of Catan.
They weren’t enjoying drinks and throwing darts.
They were scared.
…the disciples were together… behind locked doors because of their fear of the Jews. (Jn. 20:19)
A latch at the top of the door.
A key lock from the inside.
A circular deadbolt.
A square deadbolt.
A combination lock.
One of those big old pieces of wood that you slide in front of the door.
A couple of chains.
A metal boot.
Even a bunch of chairs, tables, and boxes pushed in front.
The doors were locked because of the fear of the Jews.
They were talking about the religious leaders.
These guys were murderers.
They were vicious.
They had plotted.
They had planned.
They had pushed their agenda until Jesus had been brutally crucified.
If they did that to their leader, they might not stop until each of them was nailed to a cross.
But their fears were more than that…
The disciples were out of a job! With Jesus gone, their whole corporation had folded.
They couldn’t get out and make an income. They’d be risking arrest.
They were afraid for the future of their careers, afraid for the future of their families, and afraid for the future of their church
I bet they were even afraid of how they were going to get food through the night.
Without Jesus, FEARS reigns.
Because if Jesus were here, they’d be protected from the Roman soldiers. Jesus even drove out demons.
If Jesus were here, they didn’t need to worry about money. He once caught a fish with the exact amount of money needed to pay taxes.
If Jesus were here, they’d be taken care of, he fed over 5000 people with a few loaves of bread and two fish. He could use that leftover ground beef in the fridge and turn it into a Taco Supreme with the snap of his fingers.
Jesus wasn’t there.
And without Jesus,
This is a big problem in our world right now.
The devil is trying to distract us with bad report after bad report, terrible news after terrible news, horrible thing after horrible thing.
So that we miss out on Jesus.
Without Jesus, Fear reigns.
If I’m honest…
It’s worked on me.
I’ve been afraid.
What are some things that pastors are afraid of during COVID-19? I’ll tell you.
Afraid of never getting another high five.
Afraid that having to stay between lines will condition me not to move back and forth while I preach.
I’m afraid that we will lose momentum.
Afraid that those Sanctuary Updates…may never happen?
Afraid that our idea for a satellite church in Durham will stall.
Afraid that offerings will go down and we’ll have to trim our ministries?
Afraid that Precious Lambs will barely survive.
Afraid that we’ll lose families.
Afraid that we’ll lose workers.
Afraid that the virus might get to one of you.
Afraid that the virus might be spread by me.
Afraid that because of quarantine laws, one of our members might be dying and I won’t be able to see you in person before your final breath.
Afraid that we might not be able to get to little Daniela.
Afraid that she’ll get sick.
Afraid that since she’s immunocompromised that if she gets sick…
…I’ll never get to meet her.
That’s how it feels when the devil distances me from Jesus.
Because without Jesus, FEAR reigns.
II. Replacing Fear
But here’s the good news for you and me:
…The devil can never do that for very long.
…Because Jesus always finds his people.
…even behind locked doors.
Jesus came, stood among them, and said to them, “Peace be with you!” (Jn. 20:19)
To be honest, their initial reaction was probably fear. In fact, the Gospel of Luke tells us that, “they were terrified and thought they were looking at a ghost.” (Luke 24:37)
To help with their fears, “Jesus showed them his hands and side” (20:20a)
Here. Feel the bumps on my skin.
Put your hands on my face. Warm, right?
Touch the ridges of the nail scars.
Notice the spear shaped mark in my side.
I’m not a ghost
I’m not a figment of your imagination.
And here’s what happens next
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. (v.20b)
Did you see that?
It had been a room filled with fear.
But when Jesus enters the room?
He turns it all around.
And its replacement?
Jesus replaces FEAR with JOY.
Afraid of lost income? Jesus offers your eternal riches that will never run out.
Afraid of a lost job? Jesus gives you a place working aside him in his kingdom.
Fearful of the virus? Jesus defeated death itself!
Fearful for your family? Jesus says you will always be a part of his.
Fearful for your church? Jesus is the church’s One foundation. It will not lose.
Afraid of being alone? Jesus is with you now and will never leave you.
III. Proclaiming Peace
But Jesus doesn’t stop there. Look at what he does next:
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you! Just as the Father has sent me, I am also sending you.” (Jn. 20:21)
Notice how that starts: PEACE. Jesus says it again!
And I don’t think any of the disciples were upset that Jesus repeated himself. (Honestly, there shouldn’t be a limit in the number of times that God’s people can hear him say: “PEACE.”)
But I think there’s a reason he does this specifically here.
As they realize that it’s all true.
As they realize that Jesus really rose from the dead.
As they realize that he truly was standing before them…
It’s quite possible that another fear hit them.
He’s come to get us back!
Last we saw him, we abandoned him.
We denied him.
We went and hid while he faced death by himself.
We are sinners. Our Holy God has returned to get us!
Oh no! Please shoot your lightning bolts in Peter’s direction. It was all his idea!
But Jesus didn’t shoot them with a lightning bolt.
He didn’t yell at them.
He didn’t even give them a stern look.
He simply said:
I’m not here to hurt you.
Your sins are forgiven.
I’m not here to hurt you.
I’m here to recruit you.
PEACE-filled people proclaim PEACE.
Imagine with me what it will be like.
You’re watching the news.
Suddenly, there’s a breaking report.
The quarantine is over.
The virus is in remission.
What are you going to do when your spouse comes into the room and ask, “Has anything interested happened?”
Are you gonna say, “Nah.”?
No, you’ll tell her the good news.
You’ll text message a friend.
You’ll Facebook live yourself doing a Coronavirus is conquered dance.
We have better news than that.
Our sins have been forgiven.
Jesus conquered death.
We have the promise of eternal life.
This is worth sharing.
IV. What Now?
How do you do it? How do we proclaim peace in a COVID-19 world? I want to switch gears and head to the book of 1 John. That is the first letter written to believers everywhere by the Apostle John. John was one of the Apostles in that room on the first Easter Sunday. He was a guy that had been filled with fear until Jesus showed up and transformed it into joy.
He knows a thing or two about driving fear from people’s hearts,
Because Jesus drove fear from his own heart.
Listen to what he writes in 1 John 4:16-18.
God is love. He who remains in love remains in God and God in him. In this way his love has been brought to its goal among us, so that we may have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are just like Jesus. There is no fear in love, but complete love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. (1 John 4:16-18)
I love how that starts.
God is love.
Love is God.
It doesn’t say that God is FEAR.
It doesn’t say that God is ANXIETY.
It doesn’t say that God is TERRIFYING.
God is love.
Because God is love, he drives our FEAR.
And, because you are loved, God drives out FEAR through YOU.
How might God drive out fear through you? A few points
(1) Fill Your Heart with God
This is an important point. Because it is hard to be loving towards others when you’re afraid.
Do you remember my dog Frankie? The one that’s absolutely terrified of laundry baskets? Usually she’s friendly.
Usually she licks your hands.
Usually she has no problem cuddling next to you and showing you puppy love.
If that laundry basket is there?
She runs away.
No love is shown.
Because it’s hard to be loving towards others when you’re afraid.
So, how do we keep fear out of our hearts? Look at verse 16 again:
He who remains in love remains in God and God in him. (1 John 4:16)
This is a cup. It’s filled with air. You know it. I know it. We all know it .
If I wanted to get rid of the air, it would be difficult.
I can pour it out? Still filled with air.
I can dump it upside down? Still filled with air.
I could crush it. It’s still filled with air.
The same is true with fear.
If you have it in your heart, it’s there.
You can try to hide.
You can try to distract.
You can drink a lot.
You can yell a lot.
In the end, fear is still there.
Do you know the only way to remove the air?
Fill it with something else.
It’s the same thing with FEAR.
The only way to DRIVE OUT fear from your heart is to FILL your heart with JESUS.
That’s what we’re doing right now. Keep doing it.
Join a daily devotional.
Add an afternoon devotional.
Add an evening devotional.
Add a bible reading before bed.
Go to sleep to the Bible app (and the guy on the Bible app has such a gentle voice)…
Go to sleep to the Bible app reading from the Psalms.
If you want to drive out fear from OTHERS, fill your own heart with JESUS.
(2) Live God’s Love
In this way his love has been brought to its goal among us, so that we may have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are just like Jesus. (1 Jn. 4:17)
Because God’s Love is much different than the world’s love. The world’s love is very emotion based. “It’s about people making you feel butterflies and fireworks and sparks.”
God is love.
And I doubt God felt butterflies for you and me on the cross.
Because we were still sinners that
Yet God is love.
He still died for us. He still rose for us. He still saved us
God’s love is not an emotional reaction.
God’s love is an action DESPITE an emotional reaction.
And God isn’t calling you to feel butterflies with everyone you meet.
He’s calling you to perform actions of love even when others make us feel like we don’t want to
God’s calling you to…
…get up from the couch, do the dishes, even if your spouse didn’t ask in a nice voice.
…text message something nice to that person at work, even if they’ve just been badmouthing you on the group chat.
…give a call to your grandma, even if she’s mostly grouchy.
…spend time with your kids, even if they’re really cranky.
…help out that neighbor, who’s never friendly and always frowning.
Live God’s action-centered love.
(3) Speak the Gospel
There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. (v.18)
Perfect love? That’s impossible for sinful humans to achieve.
Perfect love? That’s exactly who Jesus is.
He lived for us.
He died for us.
He rose for us.
That’s the message of love that drives out fear!
Remember earlier – how I described my fears.
Those were real fears.
But I don’t have them anymore. Know why?
I was talking to a pastoral friend. He let me vent. He let me share my fears.
And then…do you know what he said?
Even if all that happened, you’d be ok.
Because even if all that happened, you’d still have Jesus.
In fact, you have Jesus right now.
Don’t be afraid.
Without Jesus, fear reigns.
With Jesus, fear runs.
Share Jesus. Amen.
We’re in the middle of our MIRACLE sermon series where we’ve seen Jesus’ power over a variety of things.
We saw his power over SICKNESS as he cured a man with incurable leprosy.
We saw his power over DEMONS as he expelled a legion of demons from a man’s soul.
We saw his power over PARALYSIS as he helped a man walk who had never walked before.
We saw his power over DEATH as he brought a recently dead, 12-year-old girl, back to life.
But, to be fair, each of these miracles was very INDIVIDUAL in nature.
Jesus focused his power and did a miracle over one INDIVIDUAL person.
What if the element that Jesus needs to control isn’t in the body, but in nature?
This morning, we going to pit Jesus’ power against the power of NATURE itself. 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. The Miracle
The miracle is written about in Matthew 14:
Jesus urged the disciples to get into the boat and to go ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed the crowd, he went up onto the mountain by himself to pray.
Jesus had just completed a day filled with preaching and teaching and he needed a moment.
Notice Jesus doesn’t take a moment to get on Facebook.
He doesn’t take a moment to get on Twitter.
He doesn’t even take a moment to check to see if he has the highest score on Candy Crush.
Jesus takes a moment…and prays.
There’s a lesson in that.
But before he goes to pray, Jesus sends his disciples on a boat across the lake. He tells them, “Go on ahead. Row across. I’ll catch up.”
When evening came, he was there alone. This signifies the end of his prayer time. Jesus comes down the mountain and is ready to catch up to his disciples.
But…how is he going to do it? By then the boat was quite a distance from shore, being pounded by the waves because the wind was against it. (v.24b)
He doesn’t have a jet ski.
Plus – the waves are roughing up the boat. It’s not the kind of weather that anyone should think about swimming.
It’s the kind of weather that the lifeguard blows his whistle and makes everyone leave the beach – a RED warning – high hazard.
Unfortunately, the disciples are in the middle of the lake when the worst of the weather hits.
The waves keep pounding the boat.
They are so rough that if a disciple pauses rowing to take a break – the waves push them back a couple of boat lengths completely negating their progress.
This slows them down.
In fact, they are still rowing during the fourth watch of the night (v.25). That’s a reference to the division of labor among the night watchmen. In the 1st century, the first watch was from 6pm-9pm. That’s evening. The time the disciples started rowing. The second watch was from 9pm-midnight, the third watch was from midnight-3am, and the fourth watch was from 3am-6am.
The disciples have been rowing from the 1st watch to the 4th watch - around 9 hours.
They must have been tired.
They must have been exhausted.
They must have been wishing that their Savior, their Powerful Savior, would have been with them.
In the fourth watch of the night, Jesus came toward them, walking on the sea. (Matthew 14:22-24)
Read those words carefully:
It doesn’t say Jesus was doing a backstroke.
It doesn’t that he’s rowing a tiny boat.
It doesn’t say that he’s wading near shore.
He’s walking on the water.
Even the most common assumption among skeptics: that Jesus is walking on some strategically placed rocks, couldn’t be.
According to John, they were 3-4 miles out from shore. They had left from Tiberias down to the southeast and were headed for Capernaum to the North.
According to depth maps, that’d put them somewhere in the 25 to 30 feet deep region of the lake.
Way above any steppingstones.
Jesus has power over NATURE.
Whether or not an object sinks or floats depends on its density. The density of an object is based on the mass, size, and arrangement of the atoms.
To put it simply:
If atoms are more tightly compacted than water, the object will sink.
If atoms are less tightly compacted than water, the object will float.
A flat wax candle will float. The atoms are less tightly compacted than water.
But a piece of clay that weighs even less than the wax candle will sink. The atoms are more tightly compacted than the water.
For the record, a human foot supporting an entire human body sinks too.
More tightly compacted than water.
The human will sink.
Anecdotally, I remember trying this when I was younger. I’d go the local Aquatic Center, head over to the five-foot section and try to see how far I could walk on water before I would sink.
I never made it more than a step.
Even if I ran as fast as I could…
Humans don’t have power over nature.
But Jesus does.
Because Jesus is more than just a human.
Jesus is the one who INVENTED nature.
Jesus invented the moon.
Jesus invented the light.
Jesus invented the stars that were shining during the 4th watch of that night.
Jesus invented water.
Jesus invented storms.
Jesus invented winds that cause waves to pound.
Jesus invented the foot.
Jesus invented the human body.
Jesus invented the laws of density making it impossible for a human to walk on water.
Yet, it wasn’t (and isn’t) difficult for him to use his divine knowledge of nature to do things outside the natural laws of nature that were naturally set up!
In fact, this isn’t a very high degree of difficulty for him.
It’s not like me on a balance beam where I’m shaking and flailing my arms, and able to take about 3 steps before I come tumbling off.
He’s like a seasoned Olympic gymnast on the balance beam.
He’s walking on the very water that he invented.
II. The Response
Now remember – the disciples had been stuck in the middle of the lake for hours.
They were exhausted.
They were tired.
It was early in the wee hours of the morning.
When the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified and cried out in fear, “It’s a ghost!” (v.26)
To the disciples, it was more logical to assume that a ghost was attacking them, than that Jesus was walking on the water.
Look at Jesus’ response:
“Take heart! It is I! Don’t be afraid.” (v.27)
I, the one who cured that incurable diseases of leprosy.
I, the one who healed the centurion’s servant from across town.
I, the one who drove out a legion of demons.
I, the one who gave that paralytic the ability to walk.
I, the one who brought that dead girl back to life.
I, the one who has traveled with you the past two years.
I, the one who has taught you the things of God.
I, the one who is your friend.
Jesus identifies himself as FRIEND.
It’s like when you come home late at night and your dog starts barking, even viciously. She’s afraid that you are there to break into the house and steal all her bones. She assumes you’re a bad guy or a, worse yet, a cat guy.
But, then, you identify yourself.
“Sparky, take heart. It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
Jesus is doing something crazy, incredible, and miraculous.
But they needn’t fear!
Because while he is God, he is also their friend.
And with GOD as a friend, there is no reason to FEAR.
That’s important to remember.
You might not be on a boat in the middle of a storm.
But you might be in the middle of a life storm
Cutbacks at work.
Feeling betrayed by your friends.
Separation papers from your spouse.
Trying to get enough finances to keep your home.
The death of a dear friend.
You might be metaphorically paddling and rowing with all of you might to get out of danger!
Terrified that you might sink.
If that’s you, listen to Jesus:
“Take heart! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
Jesus’ presence calmed the fears of at least one disciple.
Peter…said, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” (v.28)
You commanded the leprosy to leave the leper.
You commanded the demons to leave the demon possessed man.
You commanded life to return to Jairus’ little girl.
If you want, command my feet to be buoyant – and they will.
To which, Jesus simply replied, “Come!” (v.29)
Can you picture what happened next?
Peter took a deep breath.
He grabbed a hold of the side of the boat.
He stood up.
He balanced himself.
He lifted one foot.
He hoisted it over the edge.
His sandal hit the cold liquid.
He took another deep breath.
He shifted his weight.
He planted his foot.
He lifted his other foot.
He planted it on the water.
He took a step.
He walked on water.
BOLD faith walks with Jesus, even among the STORMS.
Because for Peter, he didn’t see the storm anymore.
He only saw his Savior.
He saw his friend.
He saw his God.
He was filled with BOLD faith that Jesus would keep him up – and he did.
Granted, Jesus didn’t command us to walk on water.
But he did command us to walk with him.
To be PURE, even when our boyfriend doesn’t want to be.
To WORSHIP, even when none of our friends are.
To TRUST, even when the diagnosis is bad.
To BE GENTLE, even when everyone around you is harsh.
To MEDITATE on his Word, even when something cool is on Netflix.
To WALK WITH HIM, even when it means no longer walking with others.
This is hard to do.
Especially when the storms of life are happening all around you.
III. When Walking becomes Drowning
But that’s what Peter was doing.
And he was doing it well.
Maybe, even starting to strut a bit:
This was amazing!
The fish are underneath me.
The water is flowing under my feet.
My hair isn’t even that wet…
Off in the distance….
In his peripheral vision…
A big old wave.
Peter took his eyes off Jesus.
He took eyes of faith off Jesus.
Do you see his error?
Peter was able to walk among the storms as long as his eye was on Jesus.
But when he focuses was on the storm…
It’s the same for you and me.
Taking your eyes off Jesus will cause you to SINK.
You might be walking the walk of faith in the middle of a terrifying life storm.
But…the moment you take our eyes off Jesus?
Because life is overwhelming.
Life is challenging.
Life is filled with storms.
And on your own…
We’re like Peter.
Wildly splashing about.
Water in his nose.
Waves in his eyes.
Seaweed wrapping his feet.
As he’s sputtering and flailing, he manages a cry for help:
“Lord, save me!” (v.30)
To be fair, Jesus doesn’t say, “You’re on your own.”
He doesn’t say, “Ask me again when you have more faith.”
He doesn’t say, “Get to one knee and we can talk.”
Jesus stretched out his hand, took hold of him, and saved him.
“You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
I was walking on water.
You were walking on water.
Did you really think I’d let some wave ruin that?
When we’re drowning, GOD gives us a HAND.
He doesn’t abandon us.
He doesn’t leave us on our own.
He doesn’t just throw us a life preserver, tell us to float to shore and then, walk on ahead.
He rescues us.
Like when we were drowning in sin!
We were being slapped in the face by waves of guilt.
Shame was washing over us.
And death was about to take us to our watery grave.
Reached out his hands.
He reached out his hands to die on a cross.
He lifted us out of certain eternal death.
And rescued us to eternal life.
PRAISE THE LORD!
IV. What Now?
But maybe a few things from this lesson, to keep us from feeling like you’re drowning.
(1) Keep Your Eyes on Jesus
Because it was the moment that Peter took his eyes off Jesus, that’s when he began to drown.
It’s the same thing for us – the more time we focus on the storm and the less time we focus on Jesus, the more it feels like we’re drowning.
Keep your eyes on Jesus.
That’s why worship is so important. We’re putting our eyes on Jesus.
This is why group study is so important. We’re putting our eyes on Jesus.
It’s why studying the Bible, each day, is so important. You’re putting your eyes on Jesus.
Take a moment.
Think about it.
Are you keeping your eyes on Jesus?
If not, what are you going to do to keep your eyes on Jesus?
Make worship an every week thing.
Join a growth group.
Commit to an online Bible study.
Set aside 15 minutes each day to read and reflect on your Savior.
Keep your eyes on the one who walks on water which will empower you to walk on water.
(2) Worship Jesus as God
That is what the disciples did at the end of this event. When they got into the boat, the wind stopped. Those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God!” (v.32-33)
They bow down.
They start shouting Jesus’ praises.
They say to him, “You are God.”
God calls us to do the same thing.
To worship Jesus, not as a nice guy, nor a powerful angel, but as the Almighty, Divine Creator of Nature itself.
That makes all the difference.
Not that long ago I was spending time with a woman named Kaliyah.
She was struggling with finances because she was a single mother of two and didn’t have a job.
She had kids to feed and she didn’t have enough money for rent.
She also felt very guilty about this – if only she had made it work with the children’s father, then maybe they wouldn’t be in this mess.
After listening for a while, I said to her, “Why don’t we say a prayer and ask for Jesus to help?”
To which she responded, “Do you think he can handle it?”
Do you see the problem?
She didn’t see Jesus as God.
She saw him as someone wanting to help, but not able to help.
As a well-meaning human, but not God.
No wonder she didn’t have any idea if he could handle it.
When you worship Jesus as God,
You know that it’s the one walking on water who invites you to walk, too.
We have a leak on our roof. The rain comes down through a circular vent that was installed through the shingles and OSB without a line of caulk to protect the space surrounding it. My first attempt at fixing it (cover the area with tin foil) only worked until the tin toil blew off the roof. (About 2 days) On my second attempt, I went up to the roof with a caulking gun that I had loaded with roofing tar. I took that tar and did a nice circle around the opening. Case closed. (Julianna, man do you have handy husband.)
But that wasn’t it. It was still leaky. I went back to the roof, but couldn’t find an opening, so I decided to approach it from the other side. I went up into our crawl space attic, maneuvered around the insulation and shined a tiny flashlight up to the hole from the other direction. Sure enough! There were a few tiny little holes that were still allowing water into our place.
So, I picked up the caulking gun, pressed it against the holes and…
I tried again.
I pumped it a solid 7 or 8 times more until…
Apparently, I had forgotten to open up the top of the caulking tube. As a result, it busted out the back and all over my hands.
That tar was messy.
I used soap.
I used a second kind of soap.
I used a third kind of soap.
It was messy.
Today we’re starting our sermon series called MESSY. It’s all about something that’s the spiritual equivalent of tar all over your hands: something called sin. Something that can get all over your life, all over your relationships, and all over your relationship with God. Today we just wanted to identify what sin is and how we deal with it. But 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. What is Sin?
The Scripture that we’re looking at today is from the book of Mark. Mark is a guy who was an eyewitness to Jesus’ life. So, it’s likely that he was there for the event that we’re taking a look at today. Listen to what happens: As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17)
This story is actually recorded in two other places of Scripture. In Matthew’s version, we learn that he was a young man. (Mt. 19:20) In Luke’s version, we learn that he was a ruler. (Lk. 18:18) In all of the stories, we learn that he was rich.
So, here’s what you need to understand…
This guy was impressive.
He was the kind of guy who worked hard throughout his life. Maybe he was first chair trumpet, captain of the soccer team and the homecoming king all while graduating Cum Laude with three sets of honor cords.
The kind of guy that was no stranger to inheritance. His grandpa’s 401k. His dad’s H&R Block business. He was….
The kind of guy with a family boat house on Lake Gaston.
The kind of guy who’d gotten on Shark Tank and received a royalty deal from Mr. Wonderful.
The kind of guy who’d be an Instagram influencer – literally paid by companies — just to include a shot of himself drinking a Coca-Cola on his next social media post.
He was successful.
He also knew that none of this stuff was eternal life.
The assets would eventually run out.
The Lexus would stop running.
The six pack of abs would eventually fade to fat…then dust.
But he had earned everything else in his life.
Hence the question:
Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?
Why do you call me good? There is no one good, but God alone. (v.18)
Understand what Jesus is saying:
God is good.
And eternal life is God’s.
Then eternal life must be good.
And since God is good.
And his commands are God’s.
Then, his commands are good.
And since eternal life is good.
And God’s commands are good.
To get to eternal life, one simply needs to do the good that your good God commands you to do:
Do not murder. Murder bad. It isn’t good. Don’t do it.
Do not commit adultery. Unfaithfulness is bad. It isn’t good. Don’t do it.
Do not steal. Theft is bad. It isn’t good. Don’t do it.
Do not give false testimony. Lying is bad. It isn’t good. Don’t do it.
Do not defraud. Gossip is bad. It isn’t good. Don’t do it.
Honor your Father and Mother. Disrespect is bad. It isn’t good. Don’t do it.
Do the good things. You inherit eternal life.
Do the bad things. You won’t.
Sin is the MESSINESS of OPPOSING God.
It’s like eating healthy. If you’re trying to eat healthy, then food is either good for your body or good for your taste buds.
Carrot mush. Good for your body, not for taste.
Deep friend Carrot Cake. Good for taste, not for body.
Bran Flakes. Good for body.
Frosted Flakes. Good for taste.
Kombucha. Good for body.
Vanilla Dr. Pepper. Good for taste.
Brussel sprouts. Good for body.
Doritos. Good for taste.
Brussel sprout flavored Doritos? Not good for either. Let’s make sure that it’ll never happen.
Sin and God are like that.
They are in opposition.
What’s good for sin is not good for God.
What’s good for God is not good for sin.
II. Sin is Messy
And one of the reasons that God has assigned the sinful things as sin is because sin causes all kinds of messiness in our lives.
Thinks about it:
(1) Sin Messes up Relationships
Just consider some of the sins that Jesus mentions here.
Stealing? It messes up your relationship with the friend you stole 20 bucks from.
Gossip? It messes up your relationship with the person who finds out you have been gossiping about them.
Adultery? It messes up your relationship with your spouse, with the person you’re commit adultery with, with the spouse of the person you’re committing adultery with, with your parents, with your spouse’s parents, with your parents of the person you’ve committed adultery with, with the parents of the spouse of the persons you’ve committed adultery with, with your siblings, with your siblings in law, with their friends, with your friends, and, God forbid, any children that are in the mix.
Now you might say:
Only if I get caught!
Is that really true?
Because even if you don’t get caught stealing, the relationship with your friend is affected because now you have to think of ways to lie to your friend and remember the lies that you said in order not to get caught.
And even if you don’t get caught by the person you’re gossiping about, the people you’re gossiping to hear what you’re saying, recognize what you’re doing, and are making mental notes to keep you at a distance.
And even if you don’t get caught in adultery, you quickly find yourself nitpicking and complaining about any minor offense from your spouse because you need to soothe your conscience and come up with tangible reasons to tell yourself: “It’s ok what I’m doing.”
Sin messes up relationships with others.
(2) Sin Messes Up Self Image
Because what happens when you sin?
You don’t usually feel good about you it.
You feel anxious.
You feel sad.
You feel guilty.
And here’s the thing, when people say things like “You’re such a good person.”
You nod and accept, but deep down there’s this little voice that says: “If they only knew…”
They wouldn’t call me good.
They’d call me -- unfaithful.
Which leads to our next issue…
(3) Sin Messes Up Your Relationship with God
It’s Back to Church Sunday. One thing I’ve been doing this week is reaching out to people who used to worship here but haven’t in a while. Just a simple message telling them that we missed them and would love for them to return.
In the process, I invited one friend of mine. And the person responded: “I’ll think about it.”
So, I followed up yesterday and asked if they might make it? They said they didn’t have a car. I said, “We could give a ride.”
They responded: “I don’t think I can get up that early.” I said: “The last service is at 11 am.”
Finally, they said: “Pastor, I can’t come, because life is mess right now. I need to get it together first. I can’t let God see me like this. I’m too guilty.”
How sad. Sin drives people apart from God.
It causes us to distance ourselves from him.
We miss out on knowing we have his protection.
We miss out on being uplifted by his love.
We miss out on hearing about his incredible plan for us.
We just kind of drift…away.
But none of this worries our impressive young man. When he hears Jesus’ answer, he’s feeling pretty good. Because Jesus mentioned a bunch of commands, that he hasn’t broken.
He hasn’t murdered.
He hasn’t committed adultery.
He hasn’t lied.
He’s done good.
He says to Jesus:
All these I have kept since I was a boy. (v.20)
Jesus looked at him.
Jesus loved him.
Jesus spoke to his heart:
One thing you lack. Go, sell everything you have. Sell your 401k. Sell your internet business. Sell your stock in Disney. Sell your 70” HD TV. Sell your XBOX. Sell your Coach Handbag. Sell your Air Jordans. Sell your season tickets. Sell everything.
And give to the poor. To the homeless. To the impoverished. To the elderly man who can’t afford healthcare. To the guy at the I-540 on ramp asking for change. To the immigrant who can’t get a job because of the way he looks.
And you will have treasure in heaven. Then, come follow me. (v.21)
But the young man didn’t follow Jesus.
His face fell.
He grew sad.
He turned and left.
Because you see, Jesus had exposed his sin.
Did you catch it?
He loved earthly treasure more than heavenly treasure.
He loved STUFF more than the CREATOR of stuff.
He broke the 1st Commandment: You shall have no other gods.
He did bad.
He wasn’t good.
But more intriguing than the young man’s response, is what Jesus says next.
How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!... It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God. (v.23,24)
Have you ever seen a camel before? It’s a big old animal. The average camel is 6 feet tall at the shoulder, 7 feet tall at the hump. It weighs about 1500 pounds.
The eye of a needle? It’s much tinier. It’s so tiny because it is designed for only a thread to pass through it.
I don’t have a camel with me. (The Greensboro Zoo wouldn’t get back to my request to borrow one)
But I do have this stuffed camel.
And this needle.
No matter how hard I smush it.
No matter how hard I jam it.
No matter how hard I push it.
It is impossible for this stuffed camel to go through the eye of this needle.
It is impossible for a real camel to go through the eye of a needle.
And it is impossible for a rich young man earn his way through the gates of heaven.
In fact, it is impossible for anyone to earn their way into the gates of heaven.
(4) Sin Messes Up Our Entrance into Heaven
Heaven is a good place.
Heaven is a divinely good place.
It is a place without any sin.
And if you’ve got sin on you…
If you’ve got a big sin…
If you’ve got a little sin…
If you’ve got any sin…
…it is impossible for you to earn your way into heaven.
III. The Solution
Jesus’ disciples are shocked all this. Because this impressive young gentleman, who had earned all varieties of accolades in his lifetime, wasn’t able to earn the accolade of heaven.
If he wasn’t getting in, then…
What about us?
Because he’s got it together, we don’t.
He’s impressive; we’re not.
He’s got everything going for him; not us.
He was the Bill Gates, the Mark Zuckerberg, the Elon Musk.
If he wasn’t getting in, then…
Who can be saved? (v.26)
Listen to Jesus’ response:
With humans, this is impossible. But not with God; with God all things are possible. (v.27)
Do you get it?
Heaven is impossible for any being with sin to earn.
He doesn’t have any sin.
He doesn’t struggle with wrong.
He isn’t messy…at all.
(1) Sin hasn’t MESSED UP God
Unlike all of the rest of us, God is sinless. He’s still good. He doesn’t do wrong. He doesn’t have any mess on his eternal being. He remains pure.
You won’t catch God in the fellowship area after church gossiping about that one guy.
You can’t Google for God’s criminal record because he doesn’t have any.
You won’t find photos of God from 2011 on Social Media in which he’s engaged in lewd activity.
You won’t find any racists tweets that have been deleted from God’s account.
God is incorruptible.
God is perfect.
God is sinless.
Sin hasn’t messed up God.
And it never will.
Which is big news.
Because it means
(2) God is the ONE to Clean the Mess Up
Think about it:
When I had that tar all over my hands, one of the worst things that could have done would be to try and wipe it off by rubbing my dirty hands together.
(It’s what I did), but it failed miserably.
Messy hands cannot clean up messy hands.
Sinful hands cannot clean up sinful hands.
But God’s hands aren’t dirty.
God’s hands aren’t messy.
God’s hands are holy.
God’s hands are pure.
God’s hands are divine.
God is the one to clean the mess up.
God is the one to clean YOUR mess up.
He is the ONLY one to clean your mess up.
He had to act.
And he did.
Back to the story. Peter is the name of one of Jesus’ disciples and he is having a hard time believing that he can’t earn heaven. So, he says to Jesus this: “WE have left everything to follow you.” (v.28)
That’s what you told the young man to do.
That’s what we did.
Granted, we didn’t have as much as he did, but we still left it.
We are following you.
Does that count for something?
Look at Jesus’ response:
Truly I tell you…no one who has left home for me and the Gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age…and in the age to come eternal life. (v.29-30)
Isn’t that strange?
Jesus just promised Peter eternal life.
It wasn’t because Peter could earn it. He couldn’t.
It wasn’t because Peter was perfect. He was a sinner.
It was because Peter followed Jesus.
But why would that work?
Jesus is God.
(3) The MESSINESS of Sin is Removed by Jesus
He is God come into this messy world.
He is God dealing with the messiness of humanity.
He is God who suffered a messy, bloody death at the hands of humans on the cross.
But when he died.
He took the messiness of your sins with him.
He took the messiness of your guilt to the cross.
He through the messiness of your sins into the grave…and the stone door was slammed shut.
And there they remained.
Jesus and our sins in the grave.
On the third day?
Jesus came out alive.
But our sins? They stayed there…dead.
Jesus has removed the messiness of your sins.
In Jesus you are clean.
In Jesus you are messiness-less.
In Jesus, you are forgiven.
You might think -
All the sins I have.
All the ways I’ve made a mess of it.
All the messiness in my heart.
But not for God.
God specializes in the impossible.
Like rising from the dead.
He did the visually impossible to prove the invisibly impossible
He did the visually impossible: rising from the dead, to prove the invisible impossible: removal of all the messiness of your sins.
IV. What Now?
It’s what the rich young man didn’t do. Follow Jesus.
It’s what the poor disciples did do. Follow Jesus.
And it’s what God is calling you to do: Follow Jesus.
It’s the way out of your sinful mess. Follow Jesus.
It’s the way out of your messy guilt. Follow Jesus.
It’s the way out of this messy world to place where there’s never any mess…
I was once called to a hospital room late at night. The elderly man I went to see was in grave condition. He was hooked up to a breathing machine. He was unable to move. His eyes were red and there were purple splotches creeping up his neck.
But when I got there…whatever brightness could come to his eyes, did.
Pastor, I’m so glad you’re here.
Pastor, I’m not gonna last much longer.
Pastor, I’ve been thinking about my life.
About how I messed things up with my wife.
About how I messed things up with my children.
About how I messed…things…up.
But…as big of a mess up as I was…
I know it’s not too big of a mess for Jesus.
Because ain’t nothing too big of a mess for Jesus.
He was right.
And he is right with Jesus.
Follow your Savior friends. He’ll fix your eternal mess and bring you to eternal life. Amen.
Today we are looking at the final sermon in our EYEWITNESS ACCOUNTS sermon series. It is based on the final time Jesus appeared to his group of disciples.
Have you counted up the appearances so far?
How many are there?
The other women.
The Emmaus Disciples.
The group of disciples on Easter.
The group of disciples - plus Thomas – one week later.
The group of disciples on the fishing trip.
That’s six accounts so far.
But that’s not all of them.
There’s another time that Jesus saw Peter – one-on-one. (1 Cor. 15:5)
There’s a time that Jesus appeared to a guy called James – either the disciple or Jesus’ half-brother. (1 Cor. 15:7)
There’s a time where Jesus gives his disciples the Great Commission (Mt. 28:19-21)
There’s a time that Jesus appeared to more than 500 disciples all at one time (1 Cor. 15:6)
There’s even a time when Jesus appears to a guy named Saul who was hell-bent on destroying Christianity, but Jesus’ appearance transforms his heart into a guy named Paul who goes on 4 missionary journeys, starts 20 churches, and writes 13 books of the Bible (Acts 9).
If you were counting – that’s 11 different appearances to over 500 different people.
The resurrection is not made up.
It is REAL.
But if so…maybe you still struggle with this.
Because would it be so much easier if you could SEE Jesus?
If you could take a trip to the Holy Land and get a selfie with him?
If you could check out his Twitter handle for his perspective on any cultural situation?
If you could text him every time you had a question on a Bible passage…
Why did Jesus leave?
Why did he disappear?
Today’s EYEWITNESS account is the 12th recorded account in Scripture. It is the last one that occurs before he physically disappears. Today we want to learn (1) where Jesus went (2) why he disappeared (3) and what he wants us to do in the meantime. 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 open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. The “Disappearance”
The lesson we are looking at to begin with comes from Luke 24:50-51: When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven.
Timeline wise this is the 40th day after Easter. We find that out from Acts 1 – which is an expanded version of this same exact account.
Note that this final appearance starts with Jesus leading his disciples. That’s appropriate. He had led his disciples for 3 years. He had led him the last 40 days. He would lead them up until his last day on earth. In fact, that’s literally what disciple means: “follower.”
And he led them to Bethany. Bethany is a small town just to the east of Jerusalem. The city is the place where Jesus commandeered the donkey for his entrance into Jerusalem. In this instance, they are just outside of Bethany where a few hills are located.
And as they get to the top of the hill…
He disciples his disciples just like he had done so many times before.
Unlike so many times before…
His feet go up.
They lift off the ground.
And his body begins floating.
And he goes up.
And up. Until…
A cloud hid him from their sight.
Do any of you know who Criss Angel is? He’s like a tattooed, goth version of David Copperfield. He is famous for street magic.
One of the tricks that he did was he began to levitate in the air. Mind you – this is on the sidewalk, in the street, apart from a magician’s stage.
I thought that was amazing.
There’s a YouTube video of him explaining the trick. Essentially, he is wearing a special pair of pants that (1) break away in the front (2) have a mannequin’s foot attached to the back of it. This enables him to plant his real foot on the ground, balance, and go into a squat that makes it look like he is beginning to float parallel to the ground. The rest is misdirection and camera positioning.
And voila! Magic.
Jesus’ ascension is not a magic trick.
He isn’t floating on a false leg.
There isn’t camera misdirection.
He doesn’t hitch a ride on a hot air balloon, a jet pack or even a drone.
He goes all the way up to the sky
Without any strings attached.
Until he is hidden by a cloud.
This is a miracle!
This is Jesus’ ascension.
Jesus didn’t disappear; he ASCENDED into heaven.
This is a really important distinction.
Because if Jesus disappeared – we’re left confused and frightened.
But Jesus didn’t just disappear.
He ascended to heaven.
That word is really important. If any of you watched Game of Thrones – and I haven’t – but I think I can reveal this without giving a spoiler. I heard that at the end someone conquers all of the other people and ascended to the throne. He wins the Game of Thrones. He ascended to his position of power.
He did it because the struggle was over!
Jesus ascended because He conquered sin.
Jesus ascended because He conquered guilt.
Jesus ascended because He conquered shame.
Jesus ascended because He conquered death.
Jesus ascended because the work of salvation was completed.
That’s so important to remember!
Because Jesus’ whole purpose on earth was to defeat all of our spiritual enemies.
If he ascended to heaven? That’s because his work is done.
Remember that – it’s really easy to think:
I’ve got more to do.
I’ve got to become the perfect mom.
Jesus weakened sin, guilt and shame – but I have to finish them.
There’s even churches out there that preach – you’ve got more to do!
You’ve gotta get to perfection.
You’ve gotta improve.
You’ve gotta do some things to complete Jesus’ work for him.
Jesus doesn’t leave tasks unfinished.
Jesus always completes.
And Jesus completed completely conquering your sin.
If he hadn’t, he wouldn’t have left!
Jesus ascended where he rules over all.
Ephesians says this: “He raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” (1:20-21)
Did you hear that?
The one who loves you more than you could ever dream is in control of all things.
He’s ruler over cities, counties, and states.
He’s ruler over kings, despots, and presidents.
He’s ruler over wind, waves, and the hot temperature outside right now!
He’s is ruler over all things!
Nothing’s more powerful.
Nothing can defeat him.
There’s one more place that he would love to rule:
I went to McDonald's the other day with a coupon for a free meal that someone had given me. After I ordered Value Meal number seven, I handed them the card and the person said: “Just a second. I can’t authorize this.”
She called over her coworker who looked at the card and said: “We need a manager to authorize this.”
She called over a shift manager who looked at the card and said: “I’m sorry. I can’t authorize this.”
She called over her manager who looked at the card, entered the code and authorized it.
It’s the same thing with life.
We want peace.
We want joy.
We want courage.
And we try to find it from all the things that don’t have the authority to give it:
Things like lust.
Things like greed.
Things like money, fame, career…a desire to be perfect!
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.” (Colossians 3:15)
Because Christ is God.
Christ is the one true ruler.
Christ offers true peace.
And Christ also offers us direction.
II. Our Mission
Because if the boss leaves and you don’t know what to do, it can be stressful:
Should we finish the reports?
Should we work on new clients?
Should we try to recover old ones?
UGH! Maybe we should just drink all of the coffee.
Christ didn’t leave us unclear with what to do. Look at what he told his disciples before his ascension:
Jesus told his disciples, “This is what is written (that’s a reference to Old Testament prophecy.) The Messiah will suffer (Jesus suffered) and rise from the dead on the third day (Jesus did), and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”(That hadn’t happened yet…)
But then look at what Jesus says next:
“You are witnesses of these things.” (Lk. 24:46-48)
Do you get it?
The final part of God’s plan is bringing the message of forgiveness to everyone.
And while all the other parts happened through Jesus…
This is the part that happens through you:
Before being UPLIFTED, Jesus commanded us to UPLIFT.
You don’t need to be confused about your task on this earth.
You see a coworker who is down? Approach them, listen to them, and share the message of Jesus.
Tucking your kids in for the night? Tuck them in, kiss their forehead, and share the message of Jesus.
Have a spouse who doesn’t believe? Go home, give them a hug, and share the message of Jesus.
Serve in ministry here at school? Do the lesson plans, cut out the art project, and share the message of Jesus.
Serve in leadership here at church? Think about funding, consider maintenance, but don’t forget our goal is to SHARE THE MESSAGE OF JESUS!
But don’t think you have to do it alone.
“I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” More specifically in Acts: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you….” (1:8)
Ten days later.
The disciples are in Jerusalem just like Jesus told them to be.
There’s the sound of a hurricane like wind without the wind coming from within the room they are staying.
They look around and they see tongues of fire appear on the top of each other’s heads.
They are able to speak fluently in languages that they have never even studied.
The Holy Spirit was with them.
And they immediately find courage. Because they go out that day and do some sidewalk preaching – in the middle of downtown Jerusalem – with the end result that over 3,000 people are baptized and believe.
The Holy Spirit was with them.
And the Holy Spirit is with you.
Jesus left you with the promise of the HOLY SPIRIT.
By faith, the Holy Spirit is with you and he does the impossible.
He made fire appear on the heads of disciples.
He made them speak in language they never learned.
He made the sound of a hurricane occur without any hurricane winds.
He does the incredible!
The seemingly impossible.
Working through you.
To bring others to faith!
But that’s not all.
Look at verses 49-50 of Luke 24:
When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, Jesus lifted up his hands and blessed them.
Throughout Scripture, whenever Jesus’ hands are involved, there are some amazing blessings:
In Luke 13 he lays his hands on a woman who had never been able to straighten her back…and instantly she did.
In Mark 7, he lays his hands on a man who is deaf and mute and…instantly he hears and speaks.
In Mark 8, he lays his hands on a blind man’s eyes and…instantly he sees.
In Mark 6, it simply says, “He laid his hands on…sick people and healed them.” (v.5)
Talk about blessings.
And then, there’s the final blessing that pours from his hands.
He heads to a cross.
They take his hands and nails them.
And then blood flows forth.
But not just blood.
Jesus left, but left us with BLESSINGS pouring from his HANDS.
Even though you can’t see his hands.
Even though you can’t touch them.
The truth is no less true.
The blessings are no less real.
It’s one of the reasons that pastors for centuries have continued this tradition. Using the words of Scripture – God’s Word – they lift up their hands. They communicate God’s blessings on the congregation. They say: “The Lord bless you and keep you.”
This is more than just wishful thinking.
This is God’s real blessing given to you.
III. What Now?
I think that if you were a passerby and saw the aftermath of the Ascension, you might have laughed.
Because there were 20 some dudes.
Eyes lifted upwards.
Staring into the cloud.
Gazing into the sky.
Mouths dropped wide open.
And this continued…
A tap on the shoulder:
“The angel said, ‘Why do you stand there staring up into the sky? This same Jesus who left you…will come back in the same way you saw him go into heaven.’” (Acts 1:10)
In other words:
You have a job to do.
Stop looking into heaven.
And start looking around.
Don’t you see…?
There are souls who need this message.
Souls in your office.
Souls at the garage.
Souls in your neighborhood.
Souls in your kid’s room.
Souls in your kitchen.
Souls in the easy chair across from you while watching Netflix tonight.
Everywhere you look there is work that needs to be done!
What a privilege God wants to work through YOU!
Keep your eyes on the task that Jesus has given you
Be a WITNESS of the EYEWITNESS truth of your Risen Savior. 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.
Wouldn’t it be nice to view things through the eyes of a child?
To be as excited about feeding the goldfish as they are?
To be as thrilled about touching grass as they are?
To be as exhilarated by one frosted cupcake as they are?
Today we are looking at another eyewitness account of the resurrected Lord Jesus. In this account, the people who get to see Jesus are filled with wonder. Our goal is to (1) determine why they are filled with wonder (2) how they express that wonder (3) consider what that means for expressing our own wonder at Jesus.
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. Waiting for God
Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. (Jn. 21:1)
A brief timeline of events --- This occurs afterwards. After the encounter with Thomas which is already a week after Easter. Beyond that we don’t know for sure, but it might have taken some time, because the disciples meetup in Galilee.
The Sea of Galilee is important to note is located about 100 some miles north of Jerusalem, the last spot that the disciples saw Jesus. That means the disciples had taken a couple of days journey to get back to Galilee.
That’s important, because it isn’t as if Jesus keeps appearing in the same city, in the same house, in the same room. If that were the case, it’d be really easy to say: “There was something wrong with the room. Maybe there was some kind of mirror trick that was occurring. In the end, Jesus didn’t rise.”
The fact that this next account takes place up by the Sea of Galilee which is 100 miles away from the last appearances of Jesus lends credibility to the resurrection.
And the reason the disciples went up to the Sea of Galilee? Most likely they are responding to a command from Jesus that he had given them before his death and resurrection occurred. Look at Matthew 26:32. In it, Jesus said, “After I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”
Since Jesus said he would die…and he did.
And he said he would rise…and he did.
He probably is going to go up to Galilee, because he said it…
So the disciples head on up to Galilee and they wait.
And they wait.
They are waiting for God to show up.
And Peter…well…he isn’t great at just sitting around and waiting. (Maybe you can relate.)
He isn’t good at just sitting around and twiddling his thumbs.
He has to do something.
So…he does. “I’m going out to fish,” Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” (Jn. 20:3)
Sometimes God says the same to us. Sometimes God calls us to wait…
God told the ancient Israelites to wait for a Savior.
Jesus told his disciples to wait for his resurrection.
And now he told them to wait in Galilee for him to show up.
And that’s okay, right? Because I know that ya’ll are really, really good at waiting.
I know that you don’t have any problem…
When I-440 gets backed up.
When your phone says there’s a 20 minute delay on the drive home from work.
When someone is entering on the “On Ramp” and they do that thing where they drive all the way up to where the lane ends, just so that you have to wait longer.
Humans are real good at waiting, right?
One of the things that Julianna and I have always been looking forward to is becoming parents.
Personally, I think it would be a blast.
I look forward to teaching my kids how to tie a shoe.
I look forward to reading them my favorite stories.
I look forward to training them how to ride a bike.
I look forward to opening the first bag of Doritos with them!
I look forward to telling them about the Savior, about God’s love, about all that Jesus has done.
And…honestly…it has been our prayer and hope for almost 8 years.
God has said.
Honestly, that’s hard.
In a society where we hardly have to wait for anything.
Waiting for God to show up is hard.
Whether it’s waiting for God to show up and cure a sickness…
Or to show up and help with finances.
Or to show up and reconcile your relationship.
Waiting for God is hard.
But I think if you learn anything from Peter here as he is waiting – it’s this. While you’re waiting for God, you do what you can.
What he could do was fish. In fact, it was his career before the three years of following Jesus. So…rather than sit around and do nothing – he did what he could. He got out the boat. He packed up the nets. He cast off from shore. He went about earning some kind of living.
He did what he could.
And if you’re waiting for God to show up and do something amazing, don’t do nothing.
Do what you can.
Go see a doctor.
Save up your money.
Reach out to those you’ve wronged.
Trust God but do something while you’re waiting for God to show up and do something amazing!
II. Jesus Shows Up
Which is exactly what happens next.
Because the disciples are out on that lake all night. They are on the lake all night and they catch nothing. (v.3)
And you can imagine that Peter didn’t take that lightly. He and James and John were all fishermen of Galilee. So, they probably said things like:
“We need to try over behind that reedy section. The fish always bite there.”
“Oh, that didn’t work, because I forgot that when the wind is blowing to the northeast at 12 mph, the fish move over by that log over there.”
“Sure. There weren’t any fish by the log, but I imagine that’s because you sneezed, Thomas. You gotta be quieter.”
As they are thinking about packing it up and getting back to shore, they are greeted by the voice of a gentleman about 100 yards off. He calls out:
“Friends, haven’t you any fish?” (v.5)
And the disciples respond with a simple: “No.” (v.5b)
But the stranger from shore responds: “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some fish.” (v.6)
They throw their nets on the right side of the boat…and…When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. (v.6)
I don’t know if you know this or not, but…this had already happened to Peter, James and John.
In Luke 5, way back when Jesus first met them…He stood on shore, told them where to cast their nets, and they caught so many fish they fell at Jesus’ feet and proclaimed Jesus as the Lord.
Maybe John remembers.
Because immediately he responds: “It is the Lord!” (v.7)
TRUTH: Jesus lives
It’s a bit different than the first truth from the last four weeks, but not really. Again – Jesus appears and does something miraculous by knowing exactly where a bunch of fish are, collecting them all to the side of the disciples’ boat, and telling them when and where to drop net while he’s 100 yards away on the shore.
This is Jesus.
Jesus is alive.
Jesus is alive and still has all of his miraculous, incredible power.
So…if you’re waiting for God.
And you’re thinking…when is he gonna show up.
And you’re thinking…maybe he’s not because he’s not real.
Because…again…Jesus lives. And all of his resurrected power still lives with him.
And maybe add this to your notes:
He lives…even during the everyday times.
Because what’s unique in this appearance is that it doesn’t occur as a group of people are going to the tomb to mourn Jesus.
It doesn’t happen as two people are walking to Emmaus and discussing Jesus.
It doesn’t occur while an entire room of disciples is trying to wrap their minds around the implications of Jesus’ empty tomb.
It’s while they’re fishing!
Here’s the truth:
God shows up.
He is alive.
He is with you…even during the everyday stuff.
Even when you are trying to get your kids ready for gymnastics and they’re being kinda whiny and hard to work with…Jesus lives.
Even when you are at work bogged down by paperwork after email after Excel spreadsheet…Jesus lives.
Even when you are in the hospital for another routine checkup…Jesus lives.
Jesus is alive…even during the everyday stuff.
That’s great news.
And it warrants a reaction.
III. Responding to Jesus!
As soon as Simon Peter heard John say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. (v.7)
Did you hear that?
Even – putting more clothes on – before he jumps int the water.
You might call that silly.
God calls it “worship.”
TRUTH: True worship flows from beholding the Risen Savior.
Granted. That might not be what you think of when you think of worship.
In fact, for some of you – especially if you’re not a worship goer – you might think of worship as something you were “forced” to do back when you were little.
Something that mom made you do.
Something that your dad insisted you do.
Something that your parents would do as they dragged you kicking and screaming to worship only so that you sat there with your arms folded “worshiping.”
Newsflash – If your heart isn’t into worship, it isn’t worship.
Look at John 4:23. Jesus says, True worshipers worship in spirit and truth.
That means true worship starts in your spirit.
True worship starts in your heart.
And it flows.
Like a natural spring of water.
Sometimes just like Old Faithful in Yellowstone Park.
True worship flows, naturally, freely, out of love for Jesus.
Now if you grew up as a Lutheran, you might hear the word “worship” and think of standing up and sitting down, singing beautifully worded hymns, and with four-part harmony coming from the back pews.
If you grew up from a different background, you might hear “worship” and think of candles, sprinkling oils, and chanting in Latin.
If you grew up from a still different background, you might hear “worship” and think of the music – guitars, piano and some drums.
If it’s a heart focused on Jesus.
Even if it’s a different type of worship.
Take a look at the different types of worship in this section!
John sees Jesus and says, “It is the Lord!”
Peter sees Jesus and jumps in the water.
The other disciples see Jesus and happily steward all the gifts he just gave them and row back to shore.
It’s important to remember that.
Because…if I start to believe that all people NEED to worship in one particular way…Do you know what that does?
If I turn to my friend and I say, “Listen, dude…If you aren’t on your knees when you’re worshipping God, then that’s not worship.”
Then, do you know what happens?
That guy will probably get onto his knees…
But it’s no longer flowing forth out of love for Jesus.
But out of being shackled to the mode of worship that you told him was necessary.
Almost like he’s now worshiping the worship.
Don’t shackle your friends.
Worship your Savior.
In a variety of beautiful ways.
And there are a lot.
You might stand. You might sit.
You might speak. You might shout.
You might play the organ. You might play the guitar. You might play the drums.
You might speak English. You might speak Spanish. You might speak Mandarin Chinese.
You might even do what some of the little children do and speak some form of “Baby!”
If it is a heart of praise proclaiming Jesus – it’s worship.
One more thing: Worship can be divided into two categories.
What we’ve talked about so far is WORTHSHIP. That’s what John did. John saw Jesus and proclaimed His Worth: It is the Lord! Lord is a name that means “Master.” It means “leader.” It means “ruler.” For the disciples, it means, “There’s the risen Jesus, king of heaven and earth who rules over death itself and now lives as our resurrected Savior.”
True worship expresses itself in WORTHSHIP.
That’s what we do every Sunday. We worship God by expressing His WORTH in our songs, hymns, prayers, Bible readings.
But that’s not the only way we worship
Because look at what Peter does. He jumps into the water.
And the other disciples start rowing that boat load of fish.
That’s worship, too.
But instead of proclaiming worth, they go to work.
True Worship expresses itself in WORK-ship.
Romans 12: 1 says this, “In view of God’s mercy, offer yourselves as living sacrifices. This is your spiritual act of worship.”
Because worship is not just a thing that you do by singing praises to God in one worship service on one day each week.
Worship is something you for the glory of God all week.
When you invite someone to worship for the glory of God.
When you give a gift to his ministry for the glory of God.
When you teach little children for the glory of God.
When you share a passage on social media for the glory of God
When you cook your family dinner for the glory of God.
When you do your family’s laundry for the glory of God.
Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
Because when God arrives, man does he do glorious things.
Look the last part of the account:
When they landed, the disciples saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it and some bread. (v.9)
Jesus had just given them 153 fish.
But that’s not all.
He gives them a net that doesn’t break.
But that’s not all.
He gives them a balanced breakfast!
That’s what happens when God arrives, God provides abundantly.
Think about it --
When Jesus arrived, after millennia of waiting for the Savior, He didn’t just provide forgiveness for one of your sins.
Not for two.
Not for 17.
But for all of your sins.
Friends, when God arrives, He provides abundantly.
That’s a reason a to wait.
It’s a reason to worship. Amen.
Today we are finishing up our ACTS series for this summer and finishing up the first delegated and sponsored mission trip in the history of the Early Christian Church. To be fair – it’s had ups and down. From the highs of bringing governor Sergius Paulus to faith to the lows of being run out of Iconium, from the high of watching a host of Greeks believe in their Savior, to the low of watching their Jewish brethren hurl stones at Paul – the trip has been quite eventful.
Today we are going to find out what comes next. After they have “done mission work,” shared the Gospel and those who have heard have become believers – what comes next? That’s an important question for the Early Christian Church, but also for us.
Next weekend is Back to Church Sunday. You might invite someone to hear about Jesus. They might come. But after they’ve come, WHAT NEXT?
Curl up in these pews and take a nap?
Our goal is to examine what Paul and Barnabas do next to find guidance for what we should be involved in after “DOING OUTREACH.” 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.
Our chapter starts with one verse that bring us to the end point of the mission trip: They preached the Gospel in Derbe and won a large number of disciples. (v.21) Then, they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch…
First, praise God! They preached the Gospel in Derbe. It seems uneventful, but it is very eventful! There aren’t any stones or riots, but there are people whose broken sinful hearts are healed with the message that Jesus is their Savior form sin. It might not look all that impressive on the outside, but inwardly – it’s amazing! They have come to faith in their Savior. They are forgiven. They are saved. They now have the promise of heaven!
Second, they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch.
Do you remember what happened there?
In Pisidian Antioch, a mob chased them out of the city.
In Iconium, a mob plotted to kill him.
In Pisidian Antioch, a mob threw stones at Paul in an attempt to kill him!
Why would Paul and Barnabas go back there?
To argue with the Jews?
To find a phone charger they left behind?
To stop at their favorite Chicken Wing joint?
They went strengthening the disciples (v.22)
Have you ever had a personal trainer? I had one that seemed like a lot of fun. They smile a lot. They are excited to have you in their gym. They give you a lot of high fives. They work you until you start to sweat.
But then, about half way through the workout, something changes. You get tired. You drop the weight. You put your hands on your hips to take a break and they walk over to you, smile and shout:
“WHAT ARE YOU, LAZY? PICK THAT BACK UP! YOU NEED TO GET STRONGER!!!”
And you pick that weight up.
You cry a little. But you pick it up.
Why do coaches do that? To strengthen you. A good coach will push you in order to strengthen you, so you can be stronger.
Essentially that is why Paul and Barnabas return to these cities.
They knew that there were believers in each of those cities.
They knew that those believers would be under attack.
They knew that those believers would need their faith exercised so it would be strong enough to endure those future attacks.
Here’s the truth for us: NEW believers/young in faith believers need their faith strengthened. No matter who it is; no matter how strong they seem to believe; our work is not done when someone says, “Thanks for inviting me to church that one time. I enjoyed it.” Nope. It doesn’t end when they confess their faith in Jesus for the first time. It doesn’t end with Baptism. It doesn’t even end when they become a member of our congregation. It doesn’t end with Confirmation, either.
After evangelism, the next step is discipleship.
Discipleship was key for the early Christian church.
Discipleship needs to be key for us.
Here are some of the ways that Paul and Barnabas went about discipleship:
New Christians needed encouragement. While their life might be transformed by Jesus, they were still relatively new to this whole Jesus thing. They needed encouragement to remain true to the faith. It’s easy to see why:
Those around them worshipped other gods.
Those around them hated Christianity.
Those around them did not think they should be Christians and would have no problem reporting them to the authorities to get them to renounce their faith.
It was very important for Christians to encourage each other.
The same is true today.
Brothers and sisters, we need to encourage each other.
Encourage each other with God’s Word.
Encourage each other in prayer.
Encourage each other via email.
Encourage each other via text message.
Encourage each other via high five.
Encourage each other via an invitation out to lunch where you ask them how things are going, listen to their struggles and speak the Gospel to uplift them.
And while you are encouraging, don’t forget the second key thing for Church members to offer each other:
2) Reminders of the End Game
I remember when we were in Arizona at the beginning of summer, we had the chance to go down into the Grand Canyon. There is a 6-mile down walk that you can go down to get to this ledge in the middle of the canyon that is supposedly gorgeous.
About the first mile down, I was super excited.
About the third mile, I was still feeling ok about it.
About 5 miles in, soaked in sweat, sweltering in the desert heat and muscles aching, I thought: “Eh! You know what…I bet there are pictures of the Grand Canyon on Google Images…”
But we pushed through and can I tell you – it was beautiful.
It was gorgeous.
It was worth it.
The truth is that living the Christian faith can be very challenging.
Because the devil will do anything and everything to make you fall from faith.
Coworkers ridicule you.
Family members question you.
You start to feel a bit of the heat that Paul and Barnabas felt on their journey.
That’s why Paul reminded early Christians of the end game!
Because in the end, they would see Jesus.
In the end, they would see heaven.
In the end, they would be guilt free.
In the end, they would live forever.
This is important for us to remember.
It’s important for us to remind new believers about.
It’s important for us to remind long time believers about.
3) Developed Ministry Positions to Address Discipleship
Specifically, Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord. (v.23) Because the reality was that Paul and Barnabas could not be in Iconium, Pisidian Antioch and Lystra all at once. If you add in Derbe and Cyprus and all the places that they still wanted to go, this was downright impossible. There needed to be people in the congregation whose specific job it was to disciple the other believers in the congregation.
It's kind of like when you delegate chores to your kids. Someone has to clean the bathroom. And here’s the thing – if you ever give kids the choice of what they’d like to do for a chore, none of them ever pick CLEANING THE BATHROOM! Who says, “I would really love to scrape old toothpaste scum from sister’s toothbrush off of the sink!” No one.
So, you delegate. Someone is assigned the chore. It gets done.
That’s exactly what Paul and Barnabas did at these churches that they went to. In each church, they delegated and specifically assigned leaders to the church with the express purpose of strengthening and encouraging the members when Paul and Barnabas weren’t there.
We have similar positions in our church. Did you know that? We have leadership whose specific purpose it is to disciple you. That’s what a pastor is. My goal is to share the Gospel with the unbelieving in the community and disciple you believers in this congregation.
We also have elders who help specifically with the discipling aspect. They encourage you to get into church and Bible study. In other words, they tell you to get into God’s Word because they want you to grow your faith and stay strong against Satan’s attacks.
Could you do me a favor?
If one of these elders calls to talk to you or send you an email to encourage you to join us for church…
Please don’t be rude.
Don’t be upset.
Don’t start thinking “How dare they!”
Be thankful because they care.
Be thankful because they are doing the task assigned to them by our church.
Be thankful because they are doing the task commanded by God.
Be thankful because they want you to have a strong faith.
Be thankful because they want you in heaven.
After Paul and Barnabas finish their tour of these new churches, they went back down to their home church in Antioch Syria. That’s the church that funded and commissioned the mission trip. When they arrived, Paul and Barnabas did not just segue into congregational life. They don’t just go back to their daily business. They don’t just grab snacks and cookies from the fellowship hall and blend in near the back.
Nope. They had a task to do – even in this more mature in faith congregation.
What was it?
They celebrated the work that God has done.
They gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. (V.27)
I think that’s key for us. We need to stay encouraged as people “doing outreach.” One way to stay encouraged is to share stories of God’s grace and love.
Like Lowell. Lowell was the brother-in-law of my Professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. A few weeks ago, my professor called me on the phone and left a message for me to call back. (Initially, I thought I was in trouble – maybe they found out that I was missing an assignment or something). But no – that wasn’t the case. He was calling to tell me that Lowell, who lived in Raleigh, hadn’t visited church since we had the Seminary Choir visit us – the choir that this professor directed – about 7 years ago.
He was sick.
He was near hospice.
He was troubled by his sins and needed a pastor.
I was able to visit him.
I was able to talk with him.
I was able to tell him about his Savior.
I was able (privileged and blessed) to hear him confess his faith in his Savior.
That’s awesome! Friends – we were a part of ushering someone to faith in Jesus – and ultimately – to his home in heaven!
And I do mean we!
I’m not here if you didn’t call me.
I’m not joyful if you don’t encourage me.
I’m not freed up to do that ministry if you don’t bless us with gifts.
We do mission work TOGETHER.
Paul thought the same way. That’s why he gathered the church “Together” to talk about the mission work. The whole church was a part of this mission work. The whole church had a part in the governor coming to faith, the Gentiles seeing the light, the Gospel making its way to Derbe! It wasn’t just Paul. It wasn’t just Barnabas. It was all of them.
And make no mistake.
When we do New Member Sunday in a week…
When visitors join us for Back to Church Sunday…
When new believers confess their faith…
It isn’t a testament to me.
It’s a testament to GOD.
Specifically, it’s a testament to God’s work through all of us…
Together we celebrate.
And…Together we recommence.
Because it isn’t that long.
It isn’t that many words.
It isn’t that many chapters in Acts before the church decides to do this mission trip thing again.
In chapter 16, Paul and companions travelled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia…(16:6)
New mission trip.
New people with Paul.
Same message of Jesus.
Friends, Paul got it. The Great Commission is continuous.
Mission work is continuous.
And for us – the same is true.
The Great Commission is continuous.
Mission work is continuous.
As a church – the school being built is not the end. We need to use that building to share the Gospel with the many that will come.
Back to Church Sunday is not the end. We need to use the opportunity to follow up on family and friends who join us.
Baptizing our kids is not enough. We need to keep teaching them and uplifting them and sharing the Gospel with them.
One adult confession of faith in Confirmation is not the end. We need to be encouraged by that confession of faith, to confess our faith before others, in hopes that one day they might confess their faith in Jesus, too.
So…that’s what next!
When you get done doing mission work – you do some more mission work.
Whether that’s discipling, encouraging, or sharing the Gospel again – we keep on doing mission work.
Until God, our Savior, calls us home to heaven – and loving says; “Well done.” Amen.
Way back in 2002 when I was a junior in high school, I went on a Mission Trip to Puerto Rico. At first, it was a lot of fun. The climate was tropical. The buildings were beautiful. The beaches were pristine.
But then…we started to work. Up and down, in the streets, hour after hour – knocking on doors, telling people about Jesus and inviting them to our Vacation Bible School. The people weren’t always the friendliest. One man just so happened to be holding a machete. Another man threatened to release his dogs. One house didn’t have anyone in it - just a giant rooster – that wasn’t too keen on my visit.
To be honest – It was hot. It was sweaty. It didn’t seem to be much of a success.
I began to think to myself:
To be fair, I didn’t have it nearly as tough as some people doing mission work have it!
There are missions in the Middle East threatened by terrorists.
There are missions in East Asia threatened to be shut down by the government.
There are missions in India where church buildings get bombed.
All because of mission work. Is it really worth it?
We’ve been studying the book of ACTS and we have that sharing the Gospel was a key part of what the apostles did. Today we’re going to look at one Early Christian Congregation that thought mission work was so important – they sent out church members to go and do that mission work in different cities – in different countries. Our goal in this study of Acts 13 is to find out where the idea for mission work comes from and how much the church (our church) should be involved on a daily basis.
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. Mission Work is God’s Idea
Our text in Acts 13 deals with a congregation in Antioch, Syria. Antioch was over 500 miles north of Jerusalem. The congregation formed way back when the persecution started in Jerusalem. Christians had tried to avoid the persecution, so they ran away from Jerusalem and settled in Antioch. Eventually they had formed a Christian congregation there. And it had gone pretty well. Check out Acts 11:20-21: “Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.”
That sounds nice doesn’t it?
The group of Christians moved themselves away from the persecution.
They moved away from the uncomfortable unbelievers who were against them.
They had grown together into a nicely sized group.
What should they do next?
Maybe they could build a sanctuary?
Improve their morning coffee ministry?
Divvy up who brought treats to Sunday worship?
Check out Acts 13: While the congregation members in Antioch were worshipping the Lord…the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. (v.1-2)
Did you hear that?
Did you hear who decided what to do next?
It wasn’t a group of men sitting in a board room trying to figure out the next best move for the church.
It wasn’t a state mandated next step.
it wasn’t something they found on Pinterest.
It wasn’t the result of a poll on Facebook.
A couple of guys didn’t say: You know what I’d like to do? Go on a mission trip to the beach – and you can all pay for it!
Saul and Barnabas’ mission work was God’s idea.
Have you ever noticed a difference between who comes up with ideas at work? If it’s a fellow coworker, the idea is generally open to critiques and criticism. You might not do it. You might not listen.
But what happens if it is the Boss’ idea? “What’s that BOSS? A movie about tornados and sharks? That sounds rad! Let’s do it!”
What I mean is, the higher a person’s rank is the more you listen to their ideas.
Whose idea was mission work again?
How high does God rank?
No wonder the Antioch congregation follows through! Mission work was God’s idea!
And it shows God’s heart. Because people don’t naturally know about their Savior. Naturally, they need a Savior; but they don’t naturally know about their Savior. Without faith in their Savior, they must face God’s wrath against sin – all on their own. But God loves people that much. He directs affairs in his church and commissioned mission work with the express purpose of bringing the message of the Savior to all people.
Now…I don’t know how the Holy Spirit told the Antioch congregation this. Did he speak out loud? Did he write it on the wall? Did he give them a vision? It’s unclear.
But what is important is what the Holy Spirit clearly communicated: Do mission work.
Now…I don’t see anything on the walls here today.
I can’t hear any voice speaking.
We have the bible.
The Bible is God’s Word.
The Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit.
The Bible is confirmed by Jesus.
And the Bible says this:
Go and make disciples of all nations. (Mt. 28:19)
In other words:
Our mission work – is God’s idea too.
Sharing the message of Jesus in North Raleigh is God’s idea.
Not the elders.
Not some Synod official.
I imagine ya’ll have busy weeks ahead.
There’s work to do.
Meals to make.
Things to clean.
Kids to chauffeur.
QUESTION: Do any of you have “Do Mission Work” written on your list this week?
Would you put it there?
It’s God’s idea.
It’s God’s command.
It’s God’s purpose for you.
II. Mission Work is Qualified by the Holy Spirit
The church at Antioch had a few different leaders in their congregation. You might recognize a couple of those names. Barnabas – He’s the guy who sold a field to help out his fellow Christians way back in chapter 4. Simeon, Lucius, and Manaen appear to be some guys who had learned from the Apostles and now were teachers of the Word. They all would have made sense as leaders of the church and choices for mission work.
But…there’s one name that isn’t quite like the others: Saul.
Do you remember him? Saul is the guy that a little over a year earlier had been leading the persecution against the church. He had thrown Christians in prison and made death threats against them. It was so bad that his persecution is the reason the Antioch Christian congregation had formed in the first place! Then, he saw Jesus and became a believer. Something that was hard for some Christians to stomach – a big, old sinner like that? Chosen by God to have forgiveness? Should we really let him into the church?
But not only did God do that…
Not only did God make Saul a believer…
Not only did God grant Saul forgiveness…
Not only did God make Saul a member of the church…
But God placed Saul in church leadership!
And then! At the outset of this mission, God specifically requests him for mission work!
Humanly speaking, Saul might be one of the last people I choose for mission work. Can you imagine his work resume? “So, you are applying to go tell people about Jesus. What kind of experience do you have? Oh…you have experience killing people who believed in Jesus…”
Humanly speaking Saul’s past would have disqualified him from mission work.
But that’s humanly speaking…
Divinely speaking, Saul is 100% qualified.
He’s qualified because the Holy Spirit qualified Saul for mission work.
In fact, the truth is: The Holy Spirit qualifies mission workers for mission work.
This is key for you and me.
Because if we thought about our past, if we really, truly thought about our deeds, there’d be all kinds of disqualifications from doing mission work.
I don’t know enough.
I’m too big of a sinner.
I’ve done too much wrong.
I’ve not been here long enough.
But here’s the deal:
It isn’t your past that qualifies you.
It’s the Holy Spirit.
If the Holy Spirit has called you to faith, he has also called you to share in mission work…and qualified you.
He has qualified us.
And that doesn’t mean you have to go across state lines.
You might only have to go across the cubicle at work.
Across the street.
Across the bedroom in your hall.
Keep your eyes open and share Jesus.
III. Mission Work is to be Fraternally Supported
How would the rest of the church react to the mission? Take a look at verse 3. They fasted and prayed, then they placed their hands on Saul and Barnabas and sent them off. (v.3) The brothers and sisters in church, fraternally supported their work. Notice they supported the mission work in two ways:
The congregation participated in the laying on of hands. What is laying on of hands? It’s (get this) the laying on of hands in support of a brother or sister in the ministry. Maybe you lay on hands and say a prayer. Maybe you say a verse of Scripture. Maybe you simply pat him on the back and say, “God’s blessings.” In our congregation, when pastors are installed – fellow pastors will attend the service, lay hands on the rookie pastor and speak Scriptures and blessings on his ministry.
When Saul and Barnabas were being sent out, the congregation laid hands on them, too. Whether it was all the church leaders or just the leadership, Barnabas and Saul are publicly supported.
And I am certain Saul and Barnabas were uplifted by it!
Imagine you are about to run a race. Your friends and family are there. They smile and immediately start booing you. They tell you how awful you are. They hold up signs that say, “You stink at running.”
That’s not very uplifting.
The same is true in mission work. Public support uplifts mission work; public complaints…Not so much.
If I can be honest, there was one Sunday a while back that a pastor friend of mine called. He was feeling pretty upset. To be fair – worship had gone well. There were visitors there. He had given high fives and been excited to share Jesus.
But then after worship – as he was walking to the back to get some cookies – he overhead a few long-time members say:
I don’t think does a very good job. He’s not that good at pastoring. I think he should think about leaving.
Think about it – my friend had received a bunch of high fives and one complaint.
Which do you think he had spent the last day and a half thinking about?
Public support is uplifting; public complaints…Not so much.
Even if it’s true! It doesn’t matter. That’s called gossip. Publicly complaining is like cancer. Public support is uplifting; public complaints…Not so much.
But rather than public badmouthing, God calls us to publicly support mission work and those who do mission work.
How can you do it here? It’s not just supporting me. (Although I do appreciate that) It’s supporting the teachers at Precious Lambs, the teachers at Sunday School, small group leaders, elders, greeters, building committee members! You can do it with a high five. A pat on the back. A THANK YOU. A post on Social Media talking up the ministry at church. A like on your friend’s media who is sharing ministry at church.
That is uplifting.
To be honest, it’s doing what God has already done for you.
Because it is God uplifts us.
He calls you His Child.
He calls you forgiven.
He calls you part of his kingdom.
He calls you a part of this ministry!
God supports us.
We support others.
God supports others through us.
And it’s not just publicly…
Look at verse 3 again. They fasted and prayed. It wasn’t just in public where they showed up in church, gave pats on the back and high fives, but then went home and totally forgot about the mission work.
Instead they went home.
They fasted – meaning they didn’t eat much food in order to focus on the second thing they were doing: they prayed.
They were praying that God would bless the mission work.
They were praying that God would bless Barnabas.
They were praying that God would bless Saul.
They were praying that God would empower them to share the Gospel.
They were pray8ing that God would bless the Gospel in the hearts of those who would hear it.
They were praying that God would continue to bless the church in Antioch and keep them faithfully connected to his Word.
This is something for you to do, too.
To pray for the growth of God’s ministry in Raleigh.
To pray for God’s ministry around the globe.
To pray for those that are a part of that ministry.
To pray that God works through their ministry.
To pray that God’s Word works on the hearts of those touched by our ministry.
To pray that God continues to plant the message of the Gospel in the hearts of North Raleigh.
To pray that God continues to plan the message of the Gospel around the world.
IV. Mission Work is Powered by God Himself
Back to the text.
Saul and Barnabas are sent off. They make their way down to Seleucia and sail to an island called Cyprus (v.5). They are sharing Jesus everywhere they go.
Eventually they make their way to Paphos. (v.6) Paphos is headquarters for the Roman proconsul named Sergius Paulus. Now – the proconsul was very much like a governor. It was his job to rule over Paphos and report to Caesarea who was in charge of the entire Roman empire.
When Saul and Barnabas are in Paphos, Sergius Paul sends for them.
That seems really intimidating. They are standing before a Roman Governor, in a Roman palace, filled with Roman soldiers and Roman advisors. The last time that sort of thing happened was with a guy named Jesus and the governor Pontius Pilate. That ended with Jesus, dead, on a cross.
And as they are talking with the proconsul, his advisors get upset. One of them starts heckling them. He’s the advisor to the king and also a false prophet. In fact, his nickname, Elymas, means “sorcerer” and implies that he was connected with the dark, Satanic arts.
Elymas sees the proconsul hearing the Gospel and starts heckling Saul and Barnabas!
“These guys are idiots! They don’t know what they are talking about. Don’t listen to them. Listen to me.”
And Saul hears him shouting.
And Saul takes a deep breath.
And Saul shouts:
“You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind.” (v.9-10)
Elymas is struck blind.
The dark sorcerer sees nothing but darkness.
And the proconsul? He believes.
Here’s the truth:
Mission work is powered by God Himself.
Mission workers are powered by God himself.
God’s Power was with Saul.
God’s Power was with Barnabas.
God’s Power was with the other disciples.
God’s power is with you.
To be fair, God might not strike anyone blind through you…
But He might lead someone out of their blindness.
The other day I started Bible Basics with someone who was a bit unfamiliar with Christianity. In the first lesson, we talk about resurrection. I told her that Jesus died and on Easter came back to life. (No joke – this is about 5 minutes into class) And she says, “Oh!?! That’s real? I thought it was made up.”
Over the next hours, I didn’t do anything special.
I simply shared the powerful Word of God.
And now? She knows Jesus came back to life.
And she believes Jesus came back to life.
She believes Jesus is her Savior.
That’s why we do mission work.
That’s why God wants you to do mission work.
Do mission work. Amen.
I’m pretty excited today because we are beginning a brand-new series in which we study the book of Acts. Acts is a book that picks up right at the end of Jesus’ life and work on this earth. It chronicles the Early Christian Church and their struggles to maintain faith in Jesus and share Jesus in a society that was very much against Jesus. I’m particularly excited because I think we can learn a lot from this group and its early escapades.
Still – you might say:
Why are we studying the Early Church? That was over 2000 years ago. A lot has changed. We have iPhones. We have self-driving cars. We have Starbucks Coffee. We have the ability to order something at Walmart online and pick up curbside.
How, in the world, are we similar to the Early Church?
A lot of ways:
The Early Church was a relatively small group of people
We are a relatively small group of people.
The early church was trying to share Jesus with their community.
We are trying to share Jesus with our community.
The Early Church faced a society that was hostile to Christianity.
We face an American society increasingly hostile to Christianity.
The Early church was led by God.
We too are led by God.
We are very similar to the early Church. In a lot of ways, they underwent the same challenges that we are going through. Study their values, their goals, and their errors – will teach us some very important lessons.
Today we are beginning that journey in Acts 1. It’s the last interaction with Jesus and his disciples before he leaves them. Our goal is to listen to Jesus words, analyze them and take to heart a few valuable words about mission work here in North Raleigh. Before we do that, a prayer: Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; our ears to hear what you want us to hear and our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. The End of One Mission
Acts 1 is where we are going to be to start. “In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.”
A couple of notes:
The book of Acts was written by a guy named Luke. When he talked about his “former book”, it’s a reference to a book in the Bible called – “Luke.” That book is all about Jesus’ life, ministry and death.
Interesting to note that Luke, as a character in his own historical account, doesn’t appear in the Gospel of Luke. In fact, he doesn’t appear in the book of Acts until about 2/3 of the way through the story. That’s important because it means Luke was not an eyewitness of most of his accounts. However, Luke was a journalist. A scholarly journalist. He investigated thoroughly the accounts of Jesus and the Early Church in order to write down first-and accounts of what happened.
His first book focused on Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.
His second – on what takes place next.
Acts is the sequel. It’s the part two. It’s the Empire Strikes Back to Star Wars. It’s Weekend at Bernie’s II to Weekend at Bernie’s.
That’s why these first couple of verses require some knowledge of the first book. Because in the climax of the book of Luke, Jesus dies. He is killed on the cross. But then, three days later (spoiler alert) he comes back to life. After he comes back to life he presented himself to his disciples and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.
That’s because Jesus had died. The disciples had seen him die. Most dead people stayed dead.
It was hard to believe he had come back to life. And when the disciples first saw him – they were frightened and figured that they had seen a ghost or a vision or some kind of illusion.
If you read Luke’s book, you can read about those convincing proofs.
He appears to some women at the tomb.
He appears to two disciples on the road.
He appears to his disciples in a locked room.
He appears again and again to remove the disciples fears and convince them – HE IS ALIVE!
Fast Forward to the book of Acts. It’s the end of the 40 days. Jesus has appeared to them throughout those 40 days. The disciples are no longer frightened, and their doubts have dissipated.
So…they ask Jesus a question:
Lord, are you at this time going to restore your kingdom to Israel? (v.6)
Are you finally going to put the Roman government in its place?
Are you finally going to take your place as ruler on earth?
Are you going to set up a Christian Utopia here in Jerusalem?
Are you going to give us spots as princes and judges and cabinet members?
Are you going to get a palace where we can each lay down in a hammock, while someone waves a palm branch to cool us and someone else feeds us grapes?
Are you at this time going to restore your kingdom to Israel?
We could get into the inaccurate soteriology of the disciples.
We could discuss their incomplete understanding of God’s Will.
We could talk about their complete failure to correctly apply Messianic prophecy.
But for our purposes, it might be best to simply paraphrase Jesus’ response to their question.
The disciples ask: Lord, are you at this time going to restore your kingdom to Israel?
Jesus replies, “No.”
II. The Beginning of Another
But Jesus doesn’t dwell there. Look at his comments in verse 8. Because in verse 8, Jesus completely reverses the disciples’ concept of what comes next. Look at Jesus’ words:
You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. (v.8)
(1) Spiritual, not Structural
The disciples had this concept of Jerusalem being actually, physically rebranded. They pictured the population sign being changed from “Jerusalem” to “Christ-a-topia.” They thought the Roman flagged being dropped and replaced by a flag with a giant cross. They figured that the “Knights of Columbus – Jerusalem Chapter;” would soon become the “Knights of Columbus – Jesus City Chapter.”
But they were wrong.
Jesus was never interested in setting up a physical kingdom of earth.
It didn’t ask for a throne.
He didn’t ask for political power.
He didn’t want the title of President.
He was interested in people’s hearts. He said, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.”
The Holy Spirit works through God’s Word.
The Holy Spirit brings people to faith.
The Holy Spirit builds people in faith.
The Holy Spirit builds people into God’s kingdom.
The Holy Spirit builds people as God’s kingdom.
Do you see the twist? The disciples thought that God’s kingdom would be a physical, geographical location.
Jesus taught that God’s kingdom would be spiritual.
That’s important for us to remember.
Precious Lambs’ expansion is getting closer and closer to completion. Trees are planted; the building is painted; inspections are done to start getting drywall hung in the building. Soon it’ll be complete. Soon it’ll be filled with children. Soon it’ll be a fixture of North Raleigh.
But that’s not the end game.
Our goal is not to simply cut the red ribbon.
Our goal is to use that building to build connections to the community.
Our goal is to use that building to build souls into Christ.
Our goal is to use that building to build God’s kingdom.
Remember – God’s kingdom is spiritual, not structural.
That (school) building is not the end.
This (church) building is not the end.
Jesus in people’s hearts is the end.
(2) Not on the Sidelines Anymore
The disciples had asked Jesus, “Lord, are you going to restore...” They had this picture of Jesus heading out and giving speeches. Of Jesus physically leading the charge against the Romans and knocking out entire armies simply by calling down fire from heaven.
But that’s not how Jesus says it will work. Check out verse 8b. Jesus says, “You will be my witnesses.”
For years, the disciples had been on the sideline.
They had cheered Jesus on.
They had watched safely on the sidelines.
It was time to get in the game.
And that’s even more shocking when you consider who the disciples were:
“You” as in the disciples.
“You” as in Doubting Thomas.
“You” as in too nervous to say anything at my trial John.
“You” as in unknown, unimportant seeming Simon the Zealot.
“You” as in racist Nathanael.
“You” as in greedy Philip.
“You” as in loud mouthed, thinking without talking, denial of Jesus, Peter.
Since it is recorded for us to read…
“You” as in “you.”
Sinful, imperfect you.
That’s so important to remember. Because it is so easy to feel like “God could never work through me.”
I’m too old.
I’m too young.
I’m too quiet.
I’m too loud.
I’m too sinful.
But if you believe in Jesus, you have the Holy Spirit.
If you have the Holy Spirit, God has chosen you to be a part of his kingdom.
If you are a part of his kingdom, you aren’t just a brick. You’re a builder: God has tasked you with building his kingdom.
And God will build his kingdom through you.
He just might not build it where you expect.
(3) Not Local, but Global
Because again - final twist - the disciples asked Jesus if he was going to rebuild the kingdom “in Jerusalem.” With Jewish people, who spoke the Jewish language and celebrated Jewish holidays and got together to talk about how great the Jewish people were.
But look at Jesus’ response: “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea, in Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” (v.8b)
Jesus didn’t want the message to stay with the Jews.
Jesus wanted all places.
You know – places like Raleigh.
Places like Durham.
Places like Chapel Hill.
Places like Morrisville, Zebulon and Fuquay-Varina.
Do you understand?
And that’s our goal. Our goal is to #GatherToTheGarden. It is to Plant the Message of Jesus in the Hearts of North Raleigh.
Notice it doesn’t say, “To plant the message of Jesus in the Hearts of People who look like us…in North Raleigh.”
It doesn’t say, “Plant the message of Jesus in the Hearts of People who talk like us…in North Raleigh.”
It doesn’t even say, “Plant the message of Jesus in the Hearts of people who think like us…in North Raleigh.”
Plant the message of Jesus –everywhere.
Which is a bit intimidating.
Intimidating for us…and we’ve got over 100 gathered today.
The disciples. There were less than 12.
And they were supposed to bring the message to the ends of the earth?
And then, Jesus does something that makes the situation even more intimidating.
Because as he is talking…
As he is finishing his speech…
As he is smiling in their direction…
His feet lift off.
There’s about 6 inches of space between him and the ground – and the space keeps increasing.
Suddenly, Jesus is going up and up and up…
…like he’s a balloon without a balloon.
…Like he’s a kite only there’s not a kite.
…Like he’s being lifted by a drone, only drones are about 2000 years away from being invented.
He ascends past the trees.
He ascends past the birds.
He ascends past the clouds.
And the disciples – are stupefied.
In part, because that was incredible.
In part, because “HE LEFT THEM!?!” How can they ever continue his mission?
As the disciples are staring up into the sky…
They don’t notice two men join them.
“Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come bac kin the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (v.11)
In other words, stop looking up.
Start looking around.
That’s what Jesus has called us to do.
Stop looking up.
He’s up there watching over you.
Stop waiting for Jesus to come back.
Stop waiting for Jesus to do the work.
He works through you.
Stop looking up.
Start looking around.
Start building his kingdom. Amen.
Today we want to learn about the events of Palm Sunday. Our goal is to better understand the big celebration then and now… Before we do that, a prayer: Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; our ears to hear what you want us to hear and our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. The Story of the Shouting
The lesson we are looking at is from Mark 11:1. As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany…Jesus said to his disciples, “Go…you’ll find a colt…bring it here.” (v.1-2)
Geographic note -- Jesus wants his disciples to stop near before they get to Bethany and Bethphage. Both are located a few miles outside of Jerusalem. Which is a bit strange. Why not finish the journey and get to Jerusalem?
The answer – a colt.
Now remember: Not everyone owned a car back then. In fact, no one did. They weren’t invented yet. You either walked or rode a camel or a horse…or a donkey. And when you weren’t riding that donkey, you’d park it on the side of the road and tie it to a nearby post.
So, do you understand what the disciples are hearing from Jesus? It’s like the Fast and the Furious – only Slow and not so Furious – and instead of Vin Diesel? Jesus. (Less tattoos – more miracles).
And...if anyone asks what they’re doing, because it’s a small town and everyone knows what type of animal everyone else rides. It’s like Ms. Ethel who lived near me in the town I grew up – and also knew that I drove a red Chevy Minivan and also that I drove a bit fast down the road last Tuesday evening. “If anyone asks you why you are doing this, tell them: ‘The master needs it.’ “(v.3)
Imagine you were one of the disciples. How would you feel about this request?
Does Jesus know the guy?
Is Jesus trying to test them?
Is this some kind of hidden camera show?
Jesus is the guy who told the blind guy to see….and he did.
Jesus is the guy who told the lame man to walk…and he did.
Jesus is the guy who told the dead girl to come back to life…and…she…did.
The two of them walk into the city. They notice the donkey tied near a pole in front of the house just as Jesus had told them. They also the neighborhood watch (aka nosy neighbors) looking on.
They make they way over as nonchalantly as possible. They act like they notice some litter on the ground; they start to untie the rope; one of them starts sneezing as a distraction.
It doesn’t work. The people surrounding begin to question: “What do you think you’re doing? That’s not yours! Hey Ezekiel! I think they’re stealing your donkey.”
Suddenly, the owner – I imagine a bigger, muscular man – shows up from around the side of the building. He happens to have a few chains in his hand – which he’s pulling tightly together as he walks. The other bystanders – also decently sized – make their way over to the scene until they’ve surrounded the disciples and cut off escape routes.
What do you think you’re doing? That’s my donkey.
The disciples look at one another.
One of them drops the rope and mutters:
“Get ready to run.”
“Ummm…the master needs it, sir.”
“Oh. Jesus? Why didn’t you say so! It’s yours. I hope he has a wonderful time on it.”
And the disciples breathe a sigh of relief. It’s amazing what people were willing to do for Jesus…
They make a few jokes with the crowd.
And they throw their coats on the back of the colt as a makeshift saddle.
And a crowd of people has gathered to watch them.
And the disciples walk out of the city towards Jesus…
And the crowd follows them.
And they get to Jesus.
And so does the crowd.
And Jesus sits upon the donkey.
And he begins riding toward Jerusalem.
And they follow.
And…suddenly, some of the crowd starts sprinting to get ahead of the processional. As they run, they are removing off their jackets and throwing them on the dusty Roman road. Others notice that the coats will only last so long, so they start breaking off Palm branches from nearby trees and ad them to the makeshift red carpet.
Meanwhile, people at the city gate hear the crowd coming and make their way to the road – adding their coats and joining the Palm branch road construction.
All the while, the people begin shouting: “Hosanna! Hosanna to the Son of David! Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
People start clapping.
People start shouting.
People start dancing and waving palm branches to the beat.
Some (like me) don’t quite get the beat.
But it doesn’t matter. Jesus is here!
And the commotion is loud enough that more and more people join the procession.
They drop their coats, grab palm branch, start dancing and singing Jesus’ praise: Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest.
Until it’s a mini-parade.
It’s a full-fledged parade.
II. The Story Behind the Shouting
It’s amazing what people will do for Jesus. The celebration is on the level of Mardi Gras and it’s totally spontaneous. What I mean is that when I go away from Raleigh for a while and then I drive back into town…the only thing that greets me is rush hour traffic.
But Jesus gets a spur of the moment parade?
Look at what they’re shouting. I think the answers are there.
1.Recognition of Jesus’ Authority
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. (v.9) In case you are wondering, “the name of the Lord” is not the name of tunic brand Jesus was wearing. He wasn’t “in the name of the Lord” like someone comes “in Gucci.”
The phrase means that Jesus is God’s representative.
It means that Jesus comes with God’s approval.
It’s like the Papa John’s delivery guy coming to your door. He comes in the name of Papa John’s. He comes with their approval and with their pizza. He can answer your questions based on what Papa John’s offers its customers – and his answers are as legal as if they were coming from Papa John himself.
It’s the same thing with Jesus.
He came in God’s name.
He spoke in God’s stead.
He came with God’s approval.
The proof? A hat with God’s insignia on it isn’t enough.
How about controlling weather with your hands?
How about producing bread out of thin air?
How about making a blind guy to see simply by telling him to?
That’s the stuff only God could do.
It means Jesus has authority from God.
2. Recognition of Messianic Lineage
In Matthew 21, the crowd is recorded as shouting, “Blessed is the Son of David!” (Mt. 21:29) David as a very famous king in the Old Testament. He’s the young boy who took a sling shot and defeated the giant Goliath with one stone to the head. He’s the guy who became king and transformed Israel into an Ancient Super power. He’s also the guy to whom God promised that one day the Messiah – the Anointed One – the Savior would come from his family line.
Jesus is David’s great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, grandson. That’s not important because he had a famous ancestor. It’s important because these people believed him to be the Messiah.
They knew that he was born in Bethlehem just like Scripture said about the Messiah.
They knew he was born of a virgin just like Scripture said about the Messiah.
They knew he made the blind see, the deaf hear, and the lame walk; just like Scripture said about the Messiah.
They knew he was the one who would save them – just like Scripture said.
3. They Recognized Jesus’ Kingdom
Check out verse 10: Blessed it the coming kingdom of our father David.
Granted – for some – they incorrectly thought this meant Jesus was here to beat up the Romans and put Israel back on top.
But for many – they saw correctly:
That Jesus would bring forgiveness of sins.
That Jesus would bring peace with God.
That Jesus would restore them to God’s kingdom.
That Jesus would bring eternal life.
That Jesus would bring each of them to heaven.
Cause that’s the kingdom of David.
It’s a kingdom in which there isn’t any political power struggle.
There isn’t fake news.
There isn’t bickering and fighting.
There isn’t violence and destruction.
There isn’t racism, terrorism, or elitism.
There is peace. There is joy. There is life.
Each of these statements is a statement of intense faith.
Each statement is a statement of belief in the invisible.
And yet this crowd shouts it!
Coats on the ground in unison!
The reason that these men and women do such a thing is that they believed.
They believed Jesus was from God.
They believed Jesus was their Savior.
Which is what we believe.
Why aren’t we shouting like that?
A while back, there was this guy who attended worship that whenever he attended worship, he looked like he was having the worst time in his life. He looked disgusted as he listened to sermons. He rolled his eyes during sermon parts. His signing of hymns sounded a lot like this: “praise…God…blessings…flow.”
I figured he wasn’t a very emotive guy.
I figured he wasn’t a very expressive person.
I figured it wasn’t that big of a deal.
Then…On Facebook…a post. He went to the UNC-Duke game.
And the excitement! The screaming.
The video in which he was filled with emotion, expressing his feelings and singing – a song – he made up – about how awesome UNC was!
What’s the deal? Because he’s not the only one like this.
I admit – I have times like this. When I’m just not that excited…
And I’m not just talking about the volume of a voice in worship.
Cause it’s easy to sing real loud here and then go out there – and never mention Jesus’ name except as a swear word.
You can be sure to invite all of your friends to the bar – but pastor has to pull teeth to get me to invite someone to worship.
You have no problem talking about why that team will win the Final Four – but grab a beer, chug it, and run away from the conversation as soon as “God” is mentioned.
What’s the deal?
(1) We don’t recognize who Jesus is.
In spite of all the miracles, all the prophecies, all the eye witness accounts written down for you and me. In spite of all the sermons, all the literature, all the New Testament passages explaining Old Testament prophecy. In spite of all times God has brought it before our eyes – we – even the best of us – even the pastors of us – we still find ourselves saying, “Hmm…He might be the Savior…”
Divine forehead slap.
(2) We don’t care.
This option is considerably worse. Because if you find yourself in this area, then you might even see that he’s the Savior. You might see how he fulfills prophesies. You might recognize that Jesus was something very, very, very special who deserves careful thought and attention.
But…you don’t care.
I gotta make money.
I gotta get in a relationship.
I gotta have fun.
Foolish. None of that lasts.
None of that gives forgiveness.
None of that gets you to heaven.
Thankfully – Jesus knew exactly who you were.
Have you ever heard of Nisan before? Not the car maker – the month. It’s the Nisan with one “s”. Nisan is the seventh month in the Hebrew calendar. It takes place in spring and it is a festive month. Nisan is the month that the Jews celebrate Passover.
Passover is a special meal in which the Israelites celebrate their freedom from Egyptian Slavery. Briefly – God sent a man named Moses to the Egyptian Pharaoh – and asked for the release of the Jewish people. When Pharaoh said no, Moses said, “If you don’t let the people go, God will send a plague.” And Pharaoh sent him away. What occurred next would send a plague – turning all the water of Egypt into blood, sending armies of locusts, frogs, gnats, hail, even lice.
And at the end of each plague, Pharaoh pleaded with Moses, “Please, pray to God to take the plague away.” And…Moses prayed, God relented, and the plague was taken away. Only to have Pharaoh say, “Just kidding. You’re still our slaves.”
Finally, God warned Pharaoh about a final plague. A plague in which he sent the angel of death to take the life of every firstborn son residing in Egypt unless he let the Jews go. This plague would occur to every family – and every firstborn son would die, unless you trusted God. Then, you would take a lamb…shed it’s blood…and paint some of that blood on a wooden frame. When the angel saw that blood – he would “pass over” that house and the child would live.
Passover was a celebration that remembered this important event.
But there’s another important day in the month of Nisan. The 10th of Nisan. Look at what God told the Israelites in Exodus 12: On the tenth day of this month each man is to select a Passover lamb to be a sacrifice for his family. (v.3)
Do you see the connection?
In the year of the Palm Sunday event, the 10th of Nisan is Palm Sunday.
Palm Sunday is the day of selecting the Lamb for the Passover sacrifice.
Jesus is the Passover Lamb.
Jesus died as a substitute for your sins.
Jesus died as a substitute for your failures.
Jesus died – that God’s wrath against your sin would “Pass over” you.
Jesus died to save you.
HOSANNA! He saves us!
And now – God in heaven above, with all of his angels, and the witness of Jesus beside him shouts about you.
And they aren’t shouting sinner.
They aren’t shouting failure.
They aren’t shouting loser.
They shout FORGIVEN!
III. What Now?
You have been set free from sin! You are forgiven. You are promised to be a part of his kingdom. This is worth shouting about.
And I don’t mean that you increase the volume in a church service.
God wants you to unapologetically share the message of your Savior.
God wants you to unashamedly tell of His love for you.
God wants you to absolutely sing his praises in all of your life.
Even—if people start looking.
A few years back I remember watching a mom in Walmart with a kid that was being a bit loud. He was singing his song – “Jesus loves me this I know…”
And it was kinda loud, “For the Bible tells me so.”
And people were looking “Little ones to him belong.”
And his mom said, “Hey! That’s enough. People are listening.”
And the boy looked up.
And said, “Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do?”
Shout like that boy.
Wave palm branches like those Palm Sunday people.
Give up your donkey like that donkey owner.
Shout Jesus’ praises – no matter what people think.