A Devotion Based on Luke 22:19-20
19 And Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me." 20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you."
John pulled his tunic over his nose. It was a bit chilly outside the city. No walls to cover the wind and no trees to block its bitterness.
Well…not any living trees.
Before John stood a tree that had been transformed into a torture device. It was an instrument of execution. A terrifying spectacle that no one in the ancient Roman world wanted anything to do with.
On that cross hung someone very dear to John. Someone John looked up to. Someone John learned from. It was his mentor, his teacher, his friend.
It was Jesus.
John stood there in agony. With Jesus’ own mother, Mary clinging to his side. How awful it must be for her! His Lord was Mary’s Son. The One that she had brought into the world was leaving the world before her very eyes.
And in a cruel way! His body was broken. His skull had been broken open by the thorn. His hands were broken by a nail. His feet were broken by another nail. His lungs were breaking as his strength withered. Soon his heart would break and all that would be left was a broken, defeated, body.
And his Blood was poured out. It was pouring out of those holes in his head, pouring out of the holes in his right hand, pouring out of the hole in his left hand, pouring down the back of the cross from the wounds covering the back of Jesus…pouring from his feet and pouring from his mouth as his body began to shut down.
His poor friend. Jesus was broken. Jesus was poured out.
Wait…John had heard that somewhere before.
The night before John had joined the other disciples and Jesus for a traditional Passover meal. They had traditional bitter herbs to remember the bitter herbs of slavery in Egypt that their ancestors endured. They ate traditional unleavened bread as their ancestors had so they were ready to leave Egypt at a moment’s notice. They served traditional lamb as a reminder of the blood of a lamb that caused the angel of death to Passover those Israelites houses that night in Egypt.
It was a traditional meal, until Jesus did something untraditional.
Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” (Lk. 22:19)
Strange. That wasn’t a normal part of the meal. That wasn’t a part of any Passover memory.
Then, Jesus took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” (Lk. 22:20)
Stranger. This definitely wasn’t a part of the meal. Sure, they drank some traditional wine. Sure, the wine had some meaning, but that meaning reached back thousands of years to the Old Testament. The Passover was a remembrance of what happened in the past...not a glimpse ahead into the future?
And how could it be his body? His body was handing him the bread, not in the bread.
And how could it be his blood? Unless he had a blister from the rubbing of his sandals, there wasn’t a drop of blood on him.
This didn’t make any sense.
At least not then. But now…now as John stared at Jesus’ broken body and his dripping blood – the truth could not escape him. Jesus was right. His body was broken. His blood was shed. Jesus was the embodiment of that meal.
Which meant that they had been wrong about the Passover meal for thousands of years. It wasn’t just a link to the past, but for thousands of years it had been a predictor of the future. John the Baptist was right – Jesus was truly True Lamb of God.
Jesus was right, he had truly given up his body. He had truly shed his blood.
But if Jesus was right about that, maybe he was right about something else he said last night.
“This is my body…given for you. This is my blood….poured out for you.”
For you. For you.
John found it hard to believe; yet he was convinced that he needed it. John’s life had been filled with pride. He had even had the audacity to ask for a position at Jesus’ right hand. And he had been known to be argumentative, a Son of Thunder, selfishly attacking his fellow disciples.
And last night? Last night he had let Jesus get arrested. He had abandoned him. Sure, he had been at the trial. Sure he was there at the cross, but he was also doing nothing of consequence to stop what was happening to his friend.
He had sinned. He knew what the Old Testament sacrifices had taught. Sin deserved death. There was no forgiveness without the shedding of blood.
That truth did not escape him, he deserved sin’s consequence. He deserved to have his body broken. He deserved to have his blood shed. He deserved to die!
But Jesus…Jesus had said…Given for you. Poured out for you.
He had been right about it’s happening. Could he be right about it’s effect?
Friends, we’ve got the benefit of seeing what happens after his body is broken and laid to rest. We get the benefit of seeing what happens after all his blood is shed.
Jesus returns to life.
It is nothing less than proof that what Jesus said on the first Maundy Thursday was indefinitely, completely, and absolutely true.
Do you have sin just like John? Maybe you’ve got sin that burdens your conscience. Perhaps you’ve got guilt that bothers you to the core. Maybe you’ve got the unshakeable feeling that you can’t be forgiven.
Listen to Jesus’ words: My body broken for you. My blood shed for you.
Those words were recorded.
Those words contain eternal truth.
Those words don’t just talk about John.
They talk about you.
It means you have sin. You deserve death. You need a Savior.
It means Jesus took your sins. It means Jesus died. It means Jesus is your Savior.
In a moment, we will receive the Lord’s Supper. When you receive that Lord’s Supper, you will be receiving his body which was broken on the cross for you. You will be receiving his blood which was shed on the cross for you. You will be receiving true and complete forgiveness.
See Jesus. Trust Jesus. Believe Jesus. Amen.
35 They brought the donkey to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36 As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road. 37 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: 38 “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!"
22 “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked. They all answered, “Crucify him!”
23 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
24 When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!”
25 All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!” 26 Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.
Jesus stumbled to the ground.
His eyes were heavy with sadness. Tears and blood dripped to the ground.
Things had changed.
Five days ago he had entered Jerusalem. Five days ago the people had been thrilled to see him. Five days ago, crowds lined the streets and spilled out of the second story windows. People got up on the rooftops to see him. Excitement filled the air!
People threw their coats on the ground -- a red carpet without the red carpet -- so that his donkey didn’t have to get its hooves dirty. They picked up giant palm branches to wave in unison as he rode into town. The shouted with joy as he passed by them: “Hosanna! Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”
Jesus clenched his eyelids shut through the next strikes.
That time had filled him with joy. He saw God’s people acknowledging Him as the Savior. They understood what he came to do. They were speaking as if they understood his Work of salvation. That crowd sounded like his disciples!
But now…now things had changed. Jesus winced as the fourteenth strike raked his already raw flesh.
Instead of waving palms, the crowd was waving rude gestures in his directions. Instead of throwing their coats on the ground, the were hurling insults at him. Instead of a few pats on the back, he was about to get 30 lashes with a 7 strapped leather whip – tipped with a sharp, triangular ending. Instead of shouting Hosanna – the crowd was shouting for his death!
Hosanna…Crucify Him...Hosanna…Crucify Him...Save Us…Die!
Good Friday and Palm Sunday. Two different days. Two different crowds. Today as we look at the next step in Jesus’ journey to the cross we will examine one very important question:
I. Which Crowd are You in?
It’s kind of like high school. There are a lot of different crowds in high school – Which one were you? The popular kids. The unpopular kids. There’s the jocks and the chess club. The gamers & the computer nerds. The academic stars and the slackers. The band geeks. The cool rockers. The drama club. The drama between boyfriend and girlfriend club.
It’s interesting how we flock to certain groups of people because they fit our interests. It still happens only the groups are a bit different: Soccer moms. Stay-at-home daddies. TurboTax users. Lawn care specialists.
And…Spiritual crowds. That one is more important. Which spiritual crowd do you fit into?
1) The Not-with-Jesus Crowd
This is fairly simple. This crowd consists of all those who don’t want anything to do with Jesus.
Like the Pharisees. They hated Jesus and they were fairly clear about it. They mocked him. They challenged him. The rebuked him. They were the ones who led Jesus to the Roman governor’s palace seeking his crucifixion. In fact, they had been planning his death for over a year!
They were unapologetically against Jesus. In spite of having met hundreds of people he healed, in spite of having seen a lame man made to walk, in spite having heard God the Father’s voice identify him as his Son, in spite of having spoken personally with Jairus, whose daughter had died and Jesus made alive, in spite of having seen with their own eyes… Lazarus who had died and whom Jesus had made alive again. They were unapologetically against Jesus.
If this is you, be careful. Careful, because sometimes people in this crowd aren’t there upon their own accord. Look at what the Pharisees did. The chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask…to have Jesus executed. (Matthew 27:20) Suddenly, the Good Friday crowd is chanting for Jesus’ death simply because that’s what everyone else was doing.
I don’t think Christianity is the cool thing these days.
I don’t think it’s what everyone else is doing.
As a result, I do think many are a part of this group without even learning who Jesus is and what his main message is.
If that’s you, would you be willing to rethink your stance?
2) The Undecided
Of course, you might not feel like you fit into a group. You might think: Pastor, that’s a really big question. There are a lot of different opinions. I don’t really know if I’ve come to any concluding thoughts on Jesus. He seems influential enough not to immediately discount him, but strange enough that I don’t know if I buy it.
That’s Pilate’s crowd – the Roman governor.. He didn’t really have an opinion on Jesus. He didn’t think he was worthy of death, but he definitely wouldn’t have considered himself a follower of Jesus. It seems safe to stay undecided, but…
Ever had one of those messages pop up on your computer that says, “Changes needed. Restart NOW? Or delay 15 minutes?” Those make a person panic. “What should I do? Do I want to make that change? Will I mess everything up? Do I have the time to download that?”
Of course, if you select delay over and over and over again – eventually it just does it for you. Usually – when you’re right in the middle of a promotion considering, PowerPoint presentation at work.
If you haven’t decided on Jesus yet – know that the time is coming when it decided for you. If you aren’t on any side at that time, it means you aren’t on his side either.
3) The Palm Sunday Crowd (at least on Palm Sunday)
Some of you might be in the Palm Sunday crowd. A really easy answer when you are at church on Palm Sunday.
I just lifted up a Palm branch. I just sang God’s praises. I just said “Hosanna – whatever that means.”
But….if you’re in the Palm Sunday crowd – where are you the other days of the year?
Think about it -- Where was Original Palm Sunday crowd on Good Friday? Scripture doesn’t say. Some may have been in the Good Friday crowd chanting for his death. But others were nowhere to be found.
In fact, there isn’t a single record of anyone standing up for Jesus to try and stop Jesus’ crucifixion except for Pilate -- who didn’t even believe in Him!
Just when Jesus needed his people the most – none of them were anywhere to be found. That still happens today – just when Jesus needs us the most – we retreat and aren’t anywhere to be found.
I’m on Jesus’ side…except at work because people don’t like me to talk about faith there.
I’m on Jesus’ side…except with my family, because they get annoyed with me fairly easily.
I’m on Jesus’ side…except when Pastor tells me to invite my unbelieving friends to Easter…That’ll be awkward.
If you aren’t on Jesus’ side all the time, are you really on Jesus’ side?
Take a look at this parable from Jesus. The kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. But while they were in the net, no one could tell what fish were good to eat and which were bed. Which were delicious salmon? And which were disgusting dogfish? When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous.
II. Why It Matters
Of course, you might be wondering, "Why does any of this matter?" It’s like picking your NCAA Tournament winners. Some teams you pick to go all the way (UNC & Duke) and it matters if they win or not. Other games, 8 versus 9 – you think – they’ll only last one round it won’t be a big deal who I pick.
Or it's kind of like the romantic female version of the tournament – The Bachelor! Does it really matter if you’re team JoJo or Team Lauren B? In the end, he’ll break up with whoever he picks.
Take at what Pilate did though. He understood the ramifications of what killing Jesus might mean. He understood – especially when they told him it was the Son of God. Pilate washed his hands and he said “I am innocent of this man’s blood!" As if that would somehow wash away the fact that he was the Roman governor, that he had the final say on legal executions and that he had the Roman soldiers to back up any decision he made.
But the Jews? Look at their response – “Let his blood be on us and on our children!” Hold us personally responsible for Jesus’ death. We’ll sign our names on that petition. We’ll take the credit.
But…did they really want the credit?
Have you ever had to babysit someone else’s pet? It’s a big deal. You want to take good care of them so nothing bad happens to them. Pet the dogs so they’re happy; leave the cats alone so they’re happy; feed the fish…so they’re happy.
Because if you forget to feed the fish, they die! If these fish are your friends, you don’t want to disappoint them. Who wants to say to a friend – “Sorry, I forgot to feed your fish. I have goldfish blood on my hands!"
How do you think God will react when you kill his Son? Because if you are against him or not for him or not standing up for him – you’ve got blood on your hands!
I’ll tell you from personal experience – that blood can’t be hidden. It screams at me – You didn’t stand up for Jesus. You didn’t care about him. He died for your sins and that means it’s your fault he’s hanging on the cross. He knows. He knows that you’re guilty.
But…when the devil gets a bit loud and the guilt is heavy, remember this: Jesus’ blood is on you!
Wait? Isn’t that the exact same thing? Did you make an error? Did you just copy and paste pastor?
I did, yes; but it wasn’t an error. Look at 1 John it says, “The blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sins." Look at what it says: ALL SINS. NOT most sins. NOT some sins. Not the little tiny sins – all sins!
Because Jesus’ blood is like Purell. It cleans; it disinfect; it destroys 100% of sins it comes into contact with. It isn’t like Febreeze where it just takes care of the stank. Julianna tells me that doesn’t actually work, I have to wash my clothing. Jesus’ blood does so much more. It completely and absolutely removes sins.
You come into contact with Jesus' blood by faith. By believing in Him – your soul has been disinfected. Even if you’ve been on the wrong side of the crowd for your whole life, Jesus’ blood is that powerful. It cleanses from all sins. It cleanses you from all your sins.
You are forgiven. Jesus wants you in his crowd.
III. What Now?
If you are on Jesus’ side and you want to stay there, three important Scriptural truths to keep us in his crowd.
1) P4 (Partake in Positive Peer Pressure).
What happens if you exercise alone? It’s very, very hard to keep exercising. You need a buddy. Someone to text you for the next workout. Someone to try and keep up with. Someone to encourage you when it gets hard. Someone to send you a sad emoji when you don’t workout.
The same thing is true spiritually. You need a crowd – someone to keep you in check. Someone to keep you in God’s Word. Someone to keep you on Jesus’ side; someone to lovingly rebuke you when you get off the path and someone to pray for you when you need encouragement.
THIS IS A SHAMELESS PLUG: I know of such a place. It’s here.
If you aren’t a part of our church, I’d love to have you. I really want you to be a part of our family. I want you to join us in sharing in this incredible message of Jesus.
Because this is a place where we partake in the words of Palm Sunday:
Blessed is the King who comes! And He comes every Sunday – to speak of his loving rules for us!
Peace in heaven! – Because you have been forgiven from all of your sins
Glory in the highest – Because Jesus has added to his crowd of followers – someone he loves dearly….
2) P42 (Provide Positive Peer Pressure)
Once you have that peer pressure affecting you, it’s contagious. You’ll want to share the love of Jesus and you’ll want to encourage others in it. In fact, it’s Jesus’ command to us! He says, “Go and make disciples…” Go and tell others about the incredible benefits of following Jesus!
What’s positive peer pressure sound like? Like this:
“Let’s go to church today. I can’t wait to be filled up with God’s love.”
“Did you want to join me for a Bible study? I could use a faith strengthening.”
“Easter is coming up. I really want you to join me for this event.”
That ain’t hard to do. Simple phrases like that will encourage people to seek the true peace, joy, and love that only Jesus brings.
3) Be #AlwaysRepping
In this year’s NCAA tournament, a lot of the teams have this on their team shirt. “AlwaysRepping.” I didn’t know what it meant so I researched it. It means “Always Representing.” It’s a reminder that every time they step foot on the floor they are representing their school. That means they will work hard, they will play hard, they will be good sports – they will do the things that embodies what it is to play for that school.
Same thing for you. If you’re in Jesus’ Crowd, remember you’re #AlwaysRepping.
There is nothing that kills Jesus’ momentum more than one of his followers being a jerk. Saying rude comments. Calling political people awful names. Letting racism and hatred get the best of them.
Don’t. Don’t because that’s not what Jesus represents.
Be #AlwaysRepping. Show love. Stand for truth.
And remember what Jesus went through for you to be in this crowd ---
His body fell into a heap. The thirtieth lash had connected with his blood stained back. He was faint. He was dizzy. He only heard jeers and mockery in the background.
But…he forced a faint smile. It was all worth it. Worth it because this was the only way his friends could be a permanent part of his crowd. Worth it because it was the only way he could be with you.
May the love which brought us into his crowd, keep us in his crowd until we hang out with his crowd in heaven. Amen.
This Sermon is based on Matthew 26:15-18, 20-22
15 Now it was the governor’s custom at the festival to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. 16 At that time they had a well-known prisoner whose name was Jesus[b] Barabbas. 17 So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” 18 For he knew it was out of self-interest that they had handed Jesus over to him.
20 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.
21 “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor.
“Barabbas,” they answered.
22 “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked.
They all answered, “Crucify him!
Pilate slipped into the tub & let the bubbles cover his body until they tickled his nose.
This was so much better.
Earlier that day he had averted disaster. An angry mob had been awaiting him at dawn. They had demanded the blood of this guy named Jesus. Pilate had interviewed him and, found him to be a bit crazy, but unworthy of the death sentence these Jewish people wanted to inflict upon him. Pilate had tried to release him, but the people would have none of it. They wanted blood and they weren’t leaving until they got it.
So…Pilate shirked his responsibility. He sent Jesus to his friend Herod. Herod was the one who was supposed to be in charge of the Jews anyways. Plus – Pilate didn’t like him that much. It made him smile to think of Herod dealing with all those awful people while he was letting the warmth of the tub soothe his muscles.
“Enter.” He told one of his servants as he lifted a glass of wine to his lips.
Umm…sir. They’re back. The Jews. With Jesus.
The wine came flying out of his mouth. Him?
I. The People’s Choice
After Pilate had re-robed, he made his way out toward the angry crowd.
15 Now it was the governor’s custom at the festival to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd.
Similar to the Presidential pardoning of turkey, only instead of a turkey, each year the governor would pardon a criminal. He wouldn’t choose just any criminal. He wouldn’t choose one that was advantageous to him. He would let the people decide. It was a show of goodwill. A way to endear him to his people. A way to settle down the crowds.
So…The people chose the man to release, but he would choose the options.
16 At that time they had a well-known prisoner whose name was Jesus Barabbas. 17 So… Pilate asked the crowd, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Jesus Barabbas or Jesus…the Messiah?”
A little bit about Jesus Barabbas. John 18:40 calls him an “insurrectionist.” That means he had revolted against the government. He had caused civil unrest. He hated the current politics. And Mark 15:11 says he had “Committed murder.” That’s probably the actual charge that had gotten him thrown into prison. Murder. Probably during the insurrection.
Murder done in the name of politics.
Kinda sounds like a terrorist, huh?
In essence, this is the choice before the people. Do you want me to release Jesus the Terrorist OR Jesus the Savior of the world? Granted, Pilate didn’t view Jesus as the Savior. He viewed it more like Jesus the Terrorist versus Jesus the mild mannered, slightly off his rock, theologian.
Still…the choice was obvious wasn’t it?
For a moment, Pilate stood with his arms crossed. For a moment, he smiled a smug smile. For a moment, he outsmarted those pesky Jews. For a moment, he had saved an innocent man. For a moment, he had hopes of a relaxing luncheon. For a moment…
…then the crowd made their choice.
21b “Give us Barabbas!”
Pilate was in shock. “Are you serious? You want the terrorist? You want the murderer? You don’t mind that your families won’t be safe and the marketplace might be filled with discord. You don’t have a problem with another possible attack in the future? You’d rather get rid of this Jesus guy simply because you don’t want to have to deal with your sins?"
22 What do you want me to do with Jesus?
The answer was simple…and disgusting, “Crucify Him!”
II. Your Choice
Sometimes they make bad choices on the Oscars. Do you agree?
I remember a few years ago trying to watch every Oscar nominated film. Films that were described as “artsy;” "compelling” and “thought provoking.” After I had seen them, if anyone had asked me for a description of the film I would have used the adjectives: “boring, actionless & mind-numbing.”
Of course -- you’re talking to a guy who still doesn’t understand why Minions didn’t even get nominated, but…Do you get my point?
As bad a choice as they sometimes make in the Oscars, how much worse of a choice did that crowd make outside Pilate's palace!
Instead of someone who gives life, they chose someone who ended it.
Instead of someone who promotes peace, they chose someone who disrupted it.
Instead of someone who provides a heavenly kingdom, they chose someone who broke down earthly kingdoms.
But enough about them.
What about you?
Who did you choose?
Pastor, what are you talking about? I’m not 2,000 years old. I wasn’t there at the palace...I haven’t even been to Israel. I’ve never seen the Roman palace.
True. Your choice was probably not presented by a first century Roman governor.
Maybe it was presented by a friend…
…by an internet link.
...by a guy you met at the bar.
…by the group that likes to complain after church.
Who did you choose?
Jesus? Not always. Barabbas? No. Perhaps someone else. Someone with…
A name like PORN.
A name like GREED.
A name like RACISM.
A name like RAGE.
Names like ADDICTION, SEX BEFORE MARRIAGE, HOMOSEXUALITY, COMPLAINING, PRIDE, LUST, VITRIOL, DOUBT and SELFISHNESS.
Here’s the deal. We know how bad these things are. We know that PORN ruins families. We know that GREED ruins marriages. We know that COMPLAINING destroys the work of the church. We know that ADDICTIONS destroy the body. We know that IMMORALITY ruins our self worth. We know that PRIDE is intolerable to God.
And we know that Jesus is the Savior. He brings forgiveness. He brings eternal life. He brings love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Yet we still find ourselves struggling to choose Him!?!
Hebrews 6:4-6 says this, “Those who fall…are crucifying the Son of God all over again!” You are driving a nail into his hands. You are swinging the hammer with all their might. You are joining your voice with the crowd.
You are NOT choosing Jesus.
III. God’s Choice
I’ll tell you what:
My arms are tired. I’ve been swinging the hammer so often lately. I’ve been choosing my sins over Jesus. I’ve done wrong.
I…I…I am Barabbas.
I deserve punishment.
I deserve death.
I deserve the cross.
But…God won’t bring it. God provided a substitute.
Do you remember our Old Testament lesson? It was that section that talked about animal sacrifices. For those who are living in downtown Raleigh and are convinced that meat comes from a plastic wrapper at a local McDonalds – this sounds a bit disturbing. If you have ever lived on a farm, then you might understand the sacrifice that animals need to make for you to feed your belly and live.
But here’s where this section is still strange. The goat in the section we were talking about – was not to be eaten. It wasn’t being turned into a burger. It wouldn’t become a delicious slice of goat jerky. It would be killed. It’s blood collected and it was sprinkled…on the altar, on the ground, and on the people. Disturbing? It should be! Because that’s how disturbing our sinful choices are to God! Remember: “The wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23)
But look at why the animal was killed: "Sacrifice the Goat for a sin offering.” In other words – it would die in the place of the people. It would die for the people’s sins.
UNDERSTAND THIS: These animals didn’t actually take away the sins of the people; they were simply an illustration of one who would die and would take away the sins of the people.
Another substitute. An eternal one.
2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “God made him who had no sin…” That’s Jesus! He lived a perfect life. He chose God every chance he could. He never chose wrong. He never chose sin.
Then, God chose to sacrifice Him.
As bad as it might be picture an innocent animal dying, how much greater when the one dying is God’s eternal, perfect, Son?
But look at why it happened: God made him who had no sin, to be sin for us! Jesus was our substitute. God chose him to suffer. He chose you to live. It wasn’t just Barabbas who got to live because Jesus died.
It’s you. Grasp that.
It’s kind of like having the choice to get a new 2016 Lexus with chrome plating, auto driving capabilities, bluetooth hook up and even a mini bar in the back seat...AND a 1987 Chevy Lumina minivan – with exhaust problems, a missing tire, and a busted radio.
God chose the broken down minivan! He chose you.
Because He chose Jesus, because Jesus died for you, because Jesus rose again three days later conquering sin and death, God chooses to say to you, “You are forgiven. Believe me. Be saved.”
IV. What Now?
1. Relish God’s Choice.
Today is selection Sunday. Basketball teams across the nation will be waiting to see if they make the big 64 team tournament. Some are locks. Some are pretty sure and some are on the bubble.
For those on the bubble, when they find out that they are in, they’ll celebrate! They’ll take a moment and take it all in – to enjoy the confetti, try on tournament shirts and ball caps, and tweet to all their friends how excited they are.
You. Take the day. Take today. Take today and relish this: God chose you!
Because there are plenty of times that we aren’t chosen. Someone else is chosen for the job. Someone else is chosen for the date. Someone else is chosen for the promotion. Someone else is chosen for the part in the school play. Someone else is chosen first for the kickball team at recess…in fact, everyone else might be chosen first.
But today we are reminded that God chose you. He chose you over his Son. He gave up his perfect Son Jesus for you. I need you to write that down. “God chose me.” Write it down and place it somewhere you will read it. Hang it on your fridge. Place it on the dash in your car. Label an alarm on your phone to come up and remind you of that truth everyday!
This will give you strength to follow our section action point…
2) Choose Jesus.
As soon as the worship songs stop, as soon as I shake your hands and wish you a good week, as soon as you get out those doors, the devil will strike. “Choose complaining -- that person is cutting you off in the parking lot!” “Choose bitterness – those kids are running in the hallway.” "Choose gossip – Because it looks like that one lady has information about that other lady.”
Be ready for it. Be ready and choose something different.
Choosing Jesus is choosing to love.
It’s choosing to honor your wife.
It’s choosing to love your kids.
It’s choosing to obey your parents.
It’s choosing to do what it is Jesus did, when he chose us and gave his life up for us!
Choose Jesus and…
3) Avoid the Voter’s Booth Mentality
You aren’t supposed to talk politics with each other. As North Carolina has its primaries, you might be nervous to tell others who you voted for. You may just simply say “mm hmm," to whoever they ask if you vote for. It’d be a great way to avoid confrontation.
If you want to do that with politics, fine. I will. But when it comes to Jesus, don’t hide it. Don’t keep your choice to yourself. Make it obvious. Make it loud. Tell your coworkers your plans to worship Jesus this Easter. Tell your friends what an awesome message from God you heard today. Pass it on via Facebook. Pass it on via Twitter. Take an Easter invite – don’t throw it away – and (gasp) INVITE SOMEONE!
Let the fact that God chose you empower your choosing of him. To the Lord be glory forever and ever! Amen.
Ever heard of the Truth campaign?
It’s a group that’s become well known in the early 2000s for exposing the “Truth” about cigaretts. They ran ads on radio, TV and publications about the dangers of tobacco. They exposed the “Truth” that it contained poison and showed the “Truth about what it can do to you.
It’s safe to say that the campaign worked. I’m not sure too many Americans would tell you that smoking is healthy. (At least we don’t hold it to the same level as an apple.)
It kind of makes you wonder what people used to think about smoking. What kind of misconceptions did they have in order to make this campaign necessary?
Try this. Google: CIGARETTE ADS. I found a couple from the 30s and 40s that are pretty interesting.
There’s one showcasing a young model that says, “Smoking…makes you sleek and slender.” (That’s an interesting way to burn calories.)
Another shows a smiling dentists that simple says, “Dentists approve!”
My favorite has a doctor…smoking & a caption above his head that reads “20,679 physicians say smoking Luckies is less irritating!” -- Why such a specific number? I’m not sure.
It’s one thing to have a misconception about smoking. It’s another thing to have a misconception about spiritual Truth.
Today, we’re taking a look at the next step in our walk with Jesus to the cross. We’ll meet a man named Pilate who has a few misconceptions about Truth. Our goal is to learn about 3 common misconceptions, examine ourselves to prevent them from overtaking us, and turn to Jesus for the truth about the Truth.
I. Pilate’s All Too Common Misconceptions on Truth
Take a look at John 18:28. It says, “28 Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning.”
I can just picture the scene. Pilate has just woken up from a long stressful day of being the Roman governor. He tossed and turned all night after dealing with very political issues. He’s doing morning stretches. He’s drinking his morning coffee, “Roman Empire Blend.” He’s still got his cozy slippers on when --
-- a violently loud mob starts screaming outside of his window.
Can you imagine what that’s like? I have never had to wake up to violent protestors outside my apartment window. You? It’s one of the reasons I would never, ever, ever want to be President of the U.S.
So I picture Pilate being very grumpy. Sighing as he puts on his governor clothes. Gritting his teeth as he walks the cold, long hallways to the reception area. Thinking, “What in the world do these people want!?!”
1) Misconception: Eternal Truth Isn’t My Responsibility
Pilate makes his wait out to the steps of the praetorium. He sees a man chained up, bruises on his face, and swelling on his right eye. He motions for the crowd to quiet down. He raises his voice (because he didn’t have a microphone) and shouts – “What charges do you have against this man!?!”
“If he were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you,” the crowd replied. In other words, “Dude, there’s a reason we came to you. We wouldn’t have bugged you, if we didn’t have a need to. This guy says that he’s a king. We don’t think he is. We need your help getting to the TRUTH!”
Pilate’s response is very interesting. “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own laws,” What does this have to do with me? Why do you think it’s my responsibility? You want to know; you figure out the truth on your own.
It’s here that Pilate exhibits the first very common misconception about the truth: “The truth isn’t my responsibility.” That’s still a misconception that’s around today.
Sounds a lot like Pilate.
But that response didn’t get Pilate very far. Look at what the people reminded him of, 32“We have no right to execute anyone.” You do Pilate. We don’t have the authority. It’d be similar to a room monitor trying to expel one of his classmates – he doesn’t have the authority. He has to go to the teacher – even the principal to make it happen.
Figuring out the truth about Jesus was Pilate’s literal job. Caesar was paying him to do this. He couldn’t shirk his responsibility.
Here’s the thing – Determining eternal truth is your responsibility too.
Ever been to the book of Ecclesiastes? It’s not just an awesome word for a biblical spelling bee. It’s an interesting 12, chapter book written by King Solomon. Solomon was very wise. He’s one of the wisest men to ever live. In Ecclesiastes, he retrospectively looks at his life and he writes about what the meaning of life is all about. Check out his conclusion in 12:13 “Fear God and keep His commands; this is the responsibility of all mankind.”
In other words – Discover the truth. Learn about the truth. Live by the Truth.
It’s your responsibility, because God said so.
And if you don't?
Well, what happens when your car is making a funny noise. Your spouse tells you to take it in to get looked at--twice. Your coworker says you should get it looked at. Your friends says, "Bud, what's wrong with your car." The guy at the McDonald's drive thru says, "That sounds funny. You should get it looked at!"
Whose fault is it when you find yourself on the side of I-540 with a smoking engine?
And whose fault is it when you appear before God and he asks if you've fulfilled your responsibility in finding out the truth about Him?
(Hint: They both have the same answer.)
2) Misconception: Eternal Truth Doesn't Affect Me.
After Pilate realized it was his job, no matter how much he didn’t want it to be, he told his guards to bring Jesus to a quieter room. They entered into the palace and they both sat down. Pilate in all of his gubernatorial grandeur. Jesus in sweat & blood.\
Pilate got to the point. “Are you a King?” Because of all the charges against Jesus, this is the one that was most concerning. If he was a king, he might lead a revolt. If he led a revolt, pilate might not see it coming. If Pilate didn’t see it coming, he might lose control of his province. If he lost control of his province, he would upset Caesar. If he upset Caesar, Caesar would fire him –
Or kill him.
Jesus answered Pilate’s question with a question. “Is that your own idea? Or did others talk to you about me?”
Pilate’s response is a bit defensive. 35 “Am I a Jew? Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me.” I’m a Roman. This truth isn’t important to me. It doesn’t pertain to me. Why would I care?
Maybe you feel that way. “Pastor – I know this seems important to you, but that’s because you’re a pastor. Eternal truth just isn’t really my thing. I’m not theological. I’m not religious. This stuff is for people like that. Jesus is important, but his truth doesn’t pertain to me.”
But that’d be like saying “I’m not a weather man, so this week’s weather doesn’t pertain to me,” or “I’m not a dentist so the cavity in my mouth doesn’t pertain to me.”
The weather does.
The cavity does.
Eternal truth does too.
In fact, look at Jesus’ response in verse 36 “My kingdom is not of this world…. ” In other words, you’re right. This isn’t a truth for the Roman people. But it also isn’t a truth for the Jewish people.
It’s not geographical. It’s not racial. It’s not cultural. “…my kingdom is not from this world.”
It’s spiritual. It’s eternal. It’s divine.
Truth does not bypass you because you don’t think it pertains to you. That’d be like telling the cop who caught you going into the restaurant without a shirt AND without shoes that you didn’t realize the sign on the front of the door that says ,”No shirt, no shoes, no service” actually pertained to you.
It does. Even if you don’t think it does, it does.
It’s the same with eternal truth. What you believe about eternal truth matters…
3) Misconception: Truth Can be Whatever you Want it to Be
After Jesus’ response, Pilate seems to let the phrases about his kingdom being out this world completely fly over his head. Remember: He wants to get this investigation over with. He fixates on one word: ‘You are a king then!” That’s his Eureka moment! His “Elementary my dear Watson!” You are king and we can get this trial over with. Pilate gets up and he starts shuffling his papers. He pulls Jesus up by the underarm, because he can’t wait to go tell the crowd his findings and send him away.
But Jesus slowed him down: “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
That must have struck Pilate. It was a divisive statement. Jesus was claiming to be a king of truth. He was claiming that all who were on the side of truth were on his side and everyone who wasn’t on his side wasn’t on the side of truth.
Pilate scoffed. “What is truth?”
This is the third and most dangerous misconception about truth. “Truth can’t be discovered.” It's really common here in American too.
Have you ever heard of the phrase: "You do You?" It's a Hashtag that's used to demonstrate the differences in people.
You like Coke; I drink Pepsi. You do You and I'll do me.
You like Monopology? You do you. I'll play Chutes & Ladders.
It works pretty well when describing likes, dislikes, and inanimate objects.
But here's the problem: We use the same kind of thinking when it comes to religion.
You're Buddhist? You do you.
You worship Allah? Cool. You do you.
You don't believe in God at all. You do you. We'll all end up in the same place anyway.
But is that really how it works? Is eternal truth whatever you want it to be?
Do ya’ll see this. (holding up a red hymnal) This a rhinoceros. Right?
You’re all thinking, “What’s wrong with Pastor? Someone needs to check the coffee. Because that’s not a rhinoceros. It’s not big. It’s not grey. It doesn’t have a giant horns coming out of its face. In fact, it doesn’t have a face. It’s a Confessional Lutheran hymnal.”
My response is: “Nope. I think it’s a rhino. That’s my truth. Your truth can be that’s it’s a hymnal, but my truth is equally as true as yours because I believe it to be so. You don’t have the right to tell me I’m wrong.”
Does that make any sense at all?
Does it make any sense when it comes to religious things?
NO! God only meant one thing. No matter how strongly you feel something is the truth, that doesn't make it the truth.
What the Truth is makes the Truth the Truth!
Believing that truth can be whatever you want -- as long as you believe it hard enough is a misconception! Such a misconception of truth maintains that the only TRUTH is that there is no TRUTH…except that TRUTH by it’s very definition is not TRUE.
Brothers and sistesr, this is wrong. It’s mind numbing & wrong.
II. The Truth about the Truth
Since Pilate is so filled with misconceptions about truth, maybe we shouldn’t listen to him. Besides, He didn’t make deaf people hear. He didn’t make blind people see. He didn’t make lame people walk. He didn’t stop storms, cast out demons, and heal the sick. He didn’t die and then three days later come back to life.
Pilate’s truth would have been that all those things were impossible. But Jesus did those things. Jesus knew truth lots better than he did.
In fact, if Pilate would have calmed down. If he would have relaxed for a moment. If he would have put in some effort, he could have heard Jesus answer Pilate’s question – the same way he had much earlier in his ministry.
Matthew 14:16 “I am the Truth.”
The truth that exposes your sins.
The truth that exposes your guilt.
The truth that exposes your condemnation.
The truth that loves you dearly.
The truth that died for your.
The truth that rose for you.
The truth that makes “you are forgiven” true.
The truth that makes “you are at peace” true.
The truth that makes “you will live forever” true.
The truth is Jesus. The truth is that only Jesus will make these things true.
So…listen to him!“Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” I doubt anyone is going to raise their hands and say, “I want to be on the side of falsehood!” We want to be on the side of truth. Therefore, listen to Jesus.
Don’t listen to false teachers.
Don’t listen to false preachers.
Don’t listen to a world with ideas and teachings that are contradictory to what Jesus said.
There can be only one truth! Jesus is that truth.
Pilate did. “ish”. He came out and said there was no reason to put Jesus to death. He didn’t say he believed in Jesus. He didn’t say he didn’t. He simply said, I believe he doesn’t deserve to die. When the people protested, Pilate had enough and he sent them to another governor named Herod. Pilate wiped off his hands. Breahted a sigh of relief and got his royal bubble bath ready.
But…remember Pilate…He isn’t done in this story yet. We’ll talk about him more next week when the crowd comes raucously back to the palace.
Don’t wait for God to give you another opportunity. Follow the truth now. Learn from the truth now.
Get on the side of truth. Now! Amen.
I. Caiaphas, the Judge
Caiaphas slammed his hands on the podium.“Quiet! Quiet in the courtroom!”
As he looked around the room, he could feel the stress pulsating throughout popular – A late night, illegal trial was the only way they could convict him without drawing the ire of the masses.
But it wasn’t working.
Witness after witness had approached the stand. Each had attempted to pin a crime on Jesus. And each – sounded as stupid and false — as the last one.
“I saw him spit on an old man’s eyes….although I’m pretty sure the blind man was able to see after he did this.”
“I heard he performed a heist and stole thousands of loaves of bread from a local bakery to feed some hungry people.”
“I heard he beat up that demon possessed guy – Legion?” “Really? Cause I heard that he helped him.”
Not even two of the witnesses agreed on what the charges against Jesus should be and their statements were quickly devaluing into arguments.
Caiaphas was losing control. If they didn’t speed things up, it would be daylight. Then, their secret attempt at rescuing the people of Israel from this lunatic would fall apart. They crowds were surround the building. They would demand Jesus to be released. Caiaphas will have missed his moment to save his people from this foolishness.
Then two scoundrels came forward with a story that might work. “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days. (v.61) ”
Caiaphas raised his eyebrows. This could work. A plot against the community of Israel. Nevermind that the temple was made with beautiful stone ornaments making it difficult to perform such a task before the age of ‘explosives.’ Nevermind that Jesus had spent most of his days peacefully preaching and teaching in the temple. Nevermind that a few days earlier Jesus emotionally cleaned out the temple in order to bring it back to its former glory.
Caiaphas had two colluding stories. He had to use this on Jesus. But so far, Jesus hadn’t said anything in response. So Caiaphas growled at him, “Aren’t you going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?”
63 But Jesus remained silent.
Caiaphas glared at him. He stared at this sad looking carpenter. He thought of how Jesus had been single handedly ripped away following from their religious leaders for weeks, how he had called him – the high priest – out for hypocrisy, how Jesus had claimed a special connection with God. Caiaphas stopped. He smirked. That was it.
Caiaphas said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: tell us if you are the Anointed One, the Son of God.”
The crowd was silent. They knew what this meant. If Jesus admitted to being the Savior, they had him. He will have committed blasphemy. He will have claimed to be God – when they could plainly see he was not! Better yet -- this was a terrible offense in the Jewish world. An offense punishable by death.
Jesus looked up from his focus on the floor. He breathed deeply. He stared Caiaphas directly in the eyes.
“You have said so,” Jesus replied. “Yes.”
But before Caiaphas could high five the lawyers at the clever way that he had just tricked Jesus into exposing himself, Jesus continued his speech. “But I say to all of you: You will see the Son of Man, me, sitting at the right hand of the Mighty one, God and coming on the clouds of heaven, to judge you."
Caiaphas chuckled. Time for the show. He tore his clothes. He wailed out loud. “He has spoken blasphemy. Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?” The jury’s response was music to Caiaphas’ ears; “He is worthy of death.”
At that pandemonium broke out. Dignified priest after dignified priest took turned slapping Jesus. They conjured up some spit in their throats and sprayed it all over Jesus’ face. They spewed forth every cruse they could think of and directed them at Jesus.
As blood fell from Jesus’ lip, Caiaphas smiled. It was only a matter of time. Soon – he would silence Jesus.
Stop for a moment and evaluate Caiaphas' decision.
Do you think it's wise to put the Son of God on trial?
Is it wise to argue with the One who controls storms?
Is it wise to condemn the one who condemns demons?
Is it wise to drive out the one who drives out disease?
But understand why Caiaphas did what he did. He did not believe that Jesus was the Son of God. Even though he had heard of the miracles -- and maybe even saw them -- he refused to believe that Jesus was the Son of God. His jealousy for Old Testament law took over. His desire to impress God with that jealousy motivated him.
He put the Son of God on trial, because he did not believe the Son of God to be the Son of God.
...what does that say about us? What does that say about us when we put the Son of God on trial knowing full well that He is the Son of God?
Now you might be thinking, “Pastor, I don’t own a gavel. I don't have a long judge robe. I don't have my own court and I don't even know where I would find the physical apparition of Jesus to put on trial. How could I put Him on trial?"
That last one was easy to write. It's a thought I have all too often. Maybe you have had a similar thought or one similar to another one. GET THIS: When we do, we are doing exactly what Caiaphas did. Only worse! We had the knowledge that He is the Son of God!
II. Jesus, the Judge
Here’s why judging Jesus is a terrible idea: Remember what Jesus said at the end to Caiaphas? Caiaphas probably laughed it off. You probably just thought it sounded strange. But – look at it one more time: “You will see me sitting at the right hand of the Mighty one and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
This is truth. When Jesus returns with the ethereal clouds of heaven with a gavel of lightning and his courtroom officials that are none other than angels who fly from the front of the courtroom to back, not holding nightsticks, but swords of fire -- What do you think his reaction will be to all those who judged him and condemned him?
What do you think his reaction will be to you if you judge and condemn him?
It’s not good.
So what do you do if you have judged God? What do you do if you’ve put the son of God on trial?
1) Appeal to His Mercy.
If you ever get bored during the day, you can always check out daytime judge shows. The CW has about 8 in a row. Judge Mills Lane. Judge Judy. Judge Joe Brown. The People’s Court. Each judge has specific qualities that make them fun to watch. Some are hard-nosed. Some are intelligent. Some are funny.
What makes Jesus special as a judge? Ephesians 2:4 tells us, “God is rich in mercy.” There’s the key characteristic of Jesus. He is merciful. Even though He has all the evidence in the world to condemn you – every last sin you’ve ever done, every last sinful word you’ve ever said, and every last sinful time you’ve put him on trial – Jesus is a merciful judge.
Scripture says as much. It says, “We have been justified – that means “declared innocent” through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1)
That means that when you stand before Jesus, your judge, your defense will be really simple.
Don’t say, “But this is really your fault.”
Don’t say, “But I didn’t really mean it.”
Don’t even say, “But this other guy is much worse.”
Simply say, “Because you're merciful.” I did wrong, but you Jesus, are merciful. Pardon me.
Jesus will lift his gavel. He will smile. He will slam it onto his eternal gavel stand. He will look you straight in the eye – and say, “Innocent.”
2) Think Twice about Judging Jesus.
Maybe you’ve got a friend who’s kind of a know-it-all. The thing about know-it-all friends is that after a while, you stop challenging them. Otherwise, you have to sit there patiently and wait as Google searches for and confirms that Alan Alda is indeed the name of the actor who played Hawkeye on M.A.S.H and that Saturn has officially 8 moons, if you count the curved one that falls near the bottom.
It’s not wise to question your know-it-all friend, it’s infinitely less wise to question Jesus. So when you have a dispute with Jesus – “Why don’t I have more money? Is that really a sin? Does God really love me?” Pause for a moment before you put him on trial. Because maybe – just maybe – it’s sinful you who is wrong. Not non-sinful, perfect, all knowing, loves you more than you know -- Jesus.
3) Give Thanks (a lot).
Considering what Jesus has done for us – forgiven us for our attacks on him AND freed us from an inevitable condemnation in the fiery jail cell of hell – saying thanks seems more than appropriate.
Instead of figuring out ways to complain against him, think of ways to say thanks to him.
· Start a journal and keep track of all the blessings he gives you each day.
· Send an email invite to your friends inviting them to church
· Grab one of the Preserve our Missions jars and put a few extra coins aside to say thanks.
· Resolve to love your spouse all the time
It’s in our text too! What did Jesus say when Caiaphas questioned him about being the Son of God? Jesus knew the law. He knew it better than Caiaphas. He knew that blasphemy – saying you are God when you aren’t – was punishable by death. He knew that when he admitted to being God’s Son the jury before him would not believe Him and would convict him of death.
But Jesus still said YES. He let them convict him. Even though he had stopped storms, walked on water, driven out demons, and conquered death – he let some measly, angry human beings crucify him.
Because He is merciful. Amen.
I. The Denial of the Denial
This night was not shaping up the way Peter had hoped it would.
It was supposed to be a nice evening. A chance for the group of disciples to spend time together. A time to reflect on the blessings of God on the Israelite people. A nice holiday for their little family.
But moments ago, Judas had left in a huff. Jesus had spoken again about his death. The other disciples all looked downcast.
It must have been getting to Jesus. Because now he was talking about how all of them, would leave him. In just a few hours he would be alone. Abandoned.
Peter had to do something. He reached over. He put his hands on Jesus’ shoulder. He shushed Jesus.
“Not I Lord! I won’t ever leave you. Not now. Not ever.”
“Simon, Simon. Satan, has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
Peter shook his head. Why was he calling him his given name? His new name was “Peter.” It was Peter because he was a rock. He didn’t get blown about by the air like a little piece of wheat. He was stronger than that.
“Never Lord!” Judas – sure. He’s a cheater. He’s always been greedy. And Philip? I could see it. He’s the one who didn’t believe you could feed the 5,000 people with a few loaves of bread. Even John – he’s supposed to be a son of thunder, but he’s more like a tiny thud. But not me. I walked on water with you. I was the first to call you the Christ. I saw your face shine like lightning up on the mountain (Which I’m not supposed to be telling anyone yet) but…still…the point is: I am ready to go with you! Even if it means prison…even if it means death.
Jesus repeated...eyes directly on Peter…more specifically, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today. You will deny three times that you know who I am.”
If you know this story and what happens next, you’re already shaking your head. Peter is setting himself up to fall even more so than before. It’s happening because Peter is forgetting an important Biblical principle. “If you think you are standing firm, be careful so that you don’t fall.” (1 Corinthians 10:12)
Peter forgot that.
But this is why God’s Word is so awesome, because look at how all encompassing that passage is: If you are hearing this message right now and you think it doesn’t apply to you, then, (guess what) it applies to you! If you think it applies to you, it applies to you. If you think that it does apply to you and therefore it doesn’t apply to you because it applies to you, it still applies to you.
Be careful. If you think this message isn’t for you, the devil’s got you right where he wants you. He's got you right next to the cliff -- and when you aren't looking -- push.
And you will fall.
Just like Peter.
II. Reality Sets In
Peter ducked behind a bush. “Did they see him?” His heart was beating so quickly.
Moments ago, Judas had appeared with a mob of soldiers. They had surrounded Jesus. They had arrested him. They other disciples had run away. And in the confusion, Peter had too!
But…he took a deep breath…he was better than this. He had promised not to abandon Jesus and he wouldn’t.
Peter walked the remaining few minutes to the courtyard of the high priest. This was where they would put Jesus on trial to determine whether he was guilty or not.
Peter stayed in the shadows. He should be in there with Jesus, but…first he needed to regain his composure.
He inched forward to the fire that was roaring in the middle of the room. It was night. He was cold. As soon as he warmed up, then…he’d go join Jesus.
As the light of the flames hit the sides of Peter’s face, a young servant girl – a teenager – noticed him. She did a double take. Then, she approached him. 56 “This man was with Jesus.”
Peter reacted quickly. “Woman, I don’t know him.” He said with a nervous giggle. Then turned his back to her and tried to focus in on warming his hands – as if the question had never been asked.
Someone else had heard her idea and after taking a long hard look at Peter, agreed, “You are also one of them.”
“I am not!” Peter replied – just a smidgen more sharply. This time he moved away from the fire. He moved back into the shadows. He needed a break from this stress. He needed to calm his spirit.
Finally a group confronted him. “You were with him. You are a Galilean. Your accent gives you away.”
Peter’s got vicious. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I swear to God I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t know him. I don’t want to know him. I will never know him. Leave me alone!”
As Peter completed his tirade, the silence of the midnight air was cut through by a host of noises.
A rooster crowed.
A door opened.
The march of the officer’s boots hit the cobblestone.
The clanking of changes as the prisoner was moved.
Peter looked up. His eyes locked with Jesus. He saw his Savior’s disappointment.
And Peter remembered. “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept. Reality had set in. He was not the strong, courageous, immovable Christian that he had fancied himself to be.
He was weak just….like Jesus said.
It’s hard to look at the reality of our situation. But right now I need you to do just that. When we look at Peter’s story, do you see yourself?
1) The Runaway Christian
Do you see yourself in the garden? Like Peter, running away from your Christian friends when things get scary?
Whoa! Pastor just said that’s a sin…online. In a public forum. I’m totally abandoning him. He’s on his own.
Wait. We’re gonna say a prayer in public? Excuse me while I use the restroom.
Oh no! My Christian friend is starting to turn this conversation back to God. I’m really uncomfortable. I know, “Speaking of heavenly things, did anyone hear the heavenly voices on American Idol last night!?!”.
If you abandon your Christian friends, you’re abandoning Jesus. You aren’t as strong as you think.
2) The Follow at a Distance Christian
Maybe you’re more like Peter on the way to the courtyard. A “Follow at a distance” Christian.
Valentine’s Day was last weekend. Did you go for an afternoon walk with your honey? If so, did you have them walk about four blocks in front of you? “Honey, I’m having a blast?” Or did you go see a movie, tell her to sit in the front, while you went and sat in the back. “Wouldn’t want people to know we’re together.”
Following Jesus at a distance gives people that exact impression. If they look at you and they look at Jesus and they can’t tell that the two of you are walking hand in hand, you aren’t as strong as you think.
3) The "Panic-at-the-last-moment-and-flat-out-deny-Jesus-to-non-Jesus-followers" Chrsitian
Or maybe you’re tougher than that. Maybe you don’t run away. Maybe you don’t follow at a distance. Maybe you get straight up confronted about your Christianity.
I was on a plane trip not that long ago. I’ve always read that a plane ride is an excellent time for a Christian Pastor to share their faith. You’ve got an audience. They can’t leave. It’s a wonderful opportunity. I’ve read a few different stories from a few top notch pastors about how they’ve been able to share their faith and how God used that to bring people to faith.
So…I was prepared to do just that. Except. The first flight wasn’t that long. There wasn’t enough time for a conversation about religion. The second flight – that guy looked a little angry, so I didn’t want to offend him.
But the third flight. The person was very talkative. She told me about how she was from Germany. She told me about how she was lonely. She told me about how she missed her family and friends. This would have been the perfect time to tell her about her Savior who never leaves her.
Instead, I said, “Did you want some peanuts?”
When that plane ride was over…now not only did I struggle with fear, but I struggled with guilt. I thought, "Some pastor. Can’t even share the message of Jesus. Not good. Pathetic." It took a couple days for me to get over it.
That's hard. Because now the voices have changed.
That's what happened to Peter. He had heard voices pointing at him and saying, "You are one of his disciples, admit it!" Now he lay in a heap outside the building listening to the voice of the devil, "You are NOT one of his disciples. Admit it! You abandoned him. You denied him. You are not a believer."
III. Where to Find Strength
But here’s where I found strength and it’s where Peter found strength. It’s also where you can find strength.
Scripture says, "When we are faithless, he is faithful, for he cannot disown himself.”
That’s exactly what Jesus was. Look at the story of Peter’s Denial again. Did you notice it all came true? Judas’ left to betray Jesus like Jesus had said. The disciples left Jesus like he had said. Peter abandoned Jesus like he had said.
But also Jesus. He did did exactly like he had said. Thank the LORD! He was arrested like he said. He was sentenced to die like he said. He was willing to give up his life to save you -- like he said and promised!
It’s amazing, too. Because if anyone should deny anyone, it should really be Jesus denying us! We are the ones with the sin problem. We are the ones whose hearts are filled with guilt. We are the ones who, if our moms knew all that we’ve done, even they would consider saying, “I don’t know the man.”
But Jesus knew the worst of you and he did not abandon you. He did not keep a distance from you. He didn’t deny knowing you.
Instead – he stood up for you. “See my friend, I don’t deny knowing her. She’s done wrong, but I’d like to suffer for her. I don’t want to abandon her. I want to take her place. I don’t want to keep my distance from her – I want to be with always to the very end of the age.”
Because of Jesus, you are forgiven. Forgiven for your lack of courage. Forgiven for letting fear win. Forgiven for your weaknesses.
And you know what – having weakness and having fears – they aren’t so bad. In fact, check out what 2 Corinthians 12:9 says, “My grace is sufficient for you; for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Any of you ever lift weights before? If you are lifting weights, it’s smart to have a spotter. But sometimes – you get the impression that the musclehead who asked you to spot is just calling you over to show off. “Oh man that 400 pounds that on my chest feels just like a feather. Could you help me get it off…oops never mind. I did it on my own.”
But if you are spotting someone and they need help, then your power is on full display! It’s up to you to save them from injury.
When we admit our weaknesses, God’s power is on full display. His power to destroy sin. His power to defeat death. His power to overcome adversity.
His power – to help us be bold.
Fast forward with me. Peter is surrounded by angry, violent men. The exact men who had crucified Jesus just months earlier. Now Peter stood before them. Now they were threatening Peter with death.
This was a lot scary than that young teenage girl.
But listen to Peter now, “You crucified the Lord of glory. For Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name, given to men, by which we must be saved.”
Peter doesn’t stutter. Peter doesn’t blink. Peter is bold.
The difference? Well – there’s this little thing called Easter that happens in between there. A little thing where Jesu boldly defeats sin and boldly defeats death.
Jesus made Peter bold.
Jesus makes believers bold.
When you're with Jesus, he’ll make you bold too. Amen.
I. The Betrayal
Judas nervously chewed his lip.
As he waited in the candlelit hallway, a chill slipped down his spine. “Was he doing the right thing?”
For so long, he had thought Jesus to be his leader. He was kind. He was convincing. He had claimed to be the Messiah. He had promised to start a new kingdom. He had promised the treasures of God himself!
To Judas, that was appealing. He knew he would look great in an expensive, purple robe. He loved the idea of showing off his fine collection of art to the merchants of the area as they sat down listening to his hired harpists and sampled the finest wines from the outskirts of the Middle East. He longed for the moment that he would have more wealth on his fingers than his entire neighborhood had in their local bank.
But the wealth never came. Judas kicked at the dirt. The wealth never came.
To be fair -- It could have! Oh how it could have! People loved Jesus. They were excited about Jesus. They respected Jesus. After he had fed thousands of them with another one of his unexplainable miracles, the people were ready to make him king and they wouldn’t have been that hard to ask them to finance his political campaign.
But Jesus wasn’t interested in money. He was interested in “spiritual wealth.” He talked about giving to the poor and taking care of widows. He went from place to place – not knowing where he would sleep each night. Oh how he hated that feeling. As the group treasurer, he knew all too well that they didn’t have a lot. In fact, if Judas had not taken advantage of his position and snuck a coin here and a coin there, for his own pension…all of that time, years of his life, would have been a total waste!
Judas clenched his fist. That would have been ok. Except. Except…Jesus had contradicted himself. When a woman spent thousands of dollars to take a bottle of vintage, top shelf perfume as a gift to Jesus – a gift which she promptly wasted by pouring out onto his feet, Jesus – defended her! There she was dumping liquid gold – Judas’ ticket to easy street – on to the floor where it seeped into the dust and slowly evaporated into nothing. And Jesus didn’t scold here. He didn’t tell her to give to the poor.
He scolded Judas!
“APPROACH!” One of the guards motioned with his scabbard. “The chief priests will see you now.”
Judas nodded. Nodded as if the speed of his neck’s movements would increase the likelihood that he was in the right.
4 And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. 5 They were delighted and agreed to give him money. He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present.
It’s crazy isn’t it? Gathered together as Christians one thing we can agree on is Jesus was awesome. He was a nice guy. He did miraculous things. Can you imagine one of his own disciples throwing his relationship away for a couple months’ wages?
See the story of Judas isn’t not about how crazy it is that Judas would betray his Savior. But how crazy, easy it is, for us to do the same.
Here’s the truth. If you look for fulfillment in things other than Jesus, you will inevitably betray him. It’s not a matter of if, but when. Your sinful heart will become too much and you will turn your back on your Savior.
Just like Judas. He found fulfillment in money, and wealth and the idea that the Messiah would bring him money and wealth. When it became clear that Jesus wouldn’t do that, Judas threw him away...
II. The Warning
It was as Judas was pondering that very thing when suddenly a gruff voice caused him to jerk in his seat.
"Do you want to get him?”
A few drops of sweat formed beneath Judas’ beard.
“I said, “Do you want a biscuit?”
Judas nodded vigorously in order to hide his nervousness from Bartholomew. “Sure.”
But that kind of thing had been happening all night. Did they know? Did they know it was him? Did they know he was planning on betraying Jesus?
Batholomew handed him a piece of warm flatbread. “Here you go.” He smiled and patted Judas on the back.
They didn’t know. He had been so secret about it. They didn’t know and they wouldn’t find out. He was safe. He was in the clear. He could remain a part of these close friends and still get his reward for betraying Jesus. No one would ever know!
Then – Jesus caught his attention.
Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “Very truly I tell you, one of you going to betray me.”
Judas gulped. How did Jesus know? Did he send spies? He couldn’t possible have done so? He had been so careful. He had been covering his tracks. This secret was his secret and his alone. Jesus didn’t know. “Breath deeply. I’m in the clear.”
Thankfully – his demeanor fit in with the mood of the room. The other disciples were nervous too. “Lord, who is it?” “It isn’t I, Lord.” “ I would never Lord.”
“It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.”
As the thick gravy seeped into the pores of the bread, It gave Judas a chance to think. Was this really the right thing? He could still stop it. Was betraying his friend and colleague really the right thing to do? He still had time to stop it. He still had time to tell the Pharisees no. He still had time to throw the silver back into their faces. He still had time to ask for forgiveness. He still had time to seek God’s mercy.
Then, Jesus gave the bread to Judas.
Back in college – I took Hebrew. Hebrew is not an easy subject. Because of that, I think to properly learn Hebrew you need a hard-nosed Hebrew Professor. One who requires hard work and demands that you pay attention. Professor Nass was definitely that. He assigned pages of memorization. It took hours to prepare for his class. AND...he had the OVERHEAD.
Do ya’ll remember overheads? You could put up pictures and outlines and word problems. Overheads were supposed to be used to guide learning They were the old school versions of Powerpoint.
My Professor used it for public shaming. He would turn on the overhead and slowly write down the number of A+’s, the number of A’s, the number of B’s, and so on and so forth.
I’ll never forget the time that my 70% was the only 70% in class. UGH. I felt like a fool.
When Jesus gives the bread to Judas, his goal is not Judas’ public humiliation. He isn’t getting some kind of joy in pointing out Judas’ heart.
This is Jesus is calling out to Judas. It is Jesus panged that He is losing one of his own. It is Jesus pleading with Judas to stop before it’s too late. To be saved from this sinful, path he was on!
If you’ve been betraying Jesus, understand this – God has been reaching out to you too!
A commandment that you suddenly remember. A Bible passage that scrolls across your screen on Twitter. A friend who mentions that they are concerned for you. That nervousness you get when talking to a pastor – “I hope he doesn’t mention. Please don’t mention it. Please let me get away with it.”
This sermon. Right now.
That’s God. He’s calling on you to do what’s right. He’s calling on you to repent.
Listen to Him! Stop betraying your Savior. Instead…betray your sinful heart. Betray your sinful desires. Betray the things that lead to death and hold onto your Savior who leads to life.
The Apostle Paul wrote this, “I strike blows to my body and make it my slave so that…I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” Meaning he didn’t let his sexual urges control him. He didn’t let his greed control him. He didn’t let his laziness or anger or jealousy or need to be liked control him.
He betrayed those desires in order to follow Jesus.
That’s what Paul did.
That’s what God wants you to do.
But that’s not what Judas did.
III. The Betrayal
With a small army behind him, Judas and his mob marched through the garden. This time there was no nervousness. They were armed with clubs, torches, and small swords. There would be no fight. They converged on Jesus’ favorite quiet place. They overtook Jesus and his small group. They surrounded the disciples. Tension built.
Judas approached out of the crowd – with façade of arrogance masking the fear in his heart. “Greetings Rabbi!” he said. He looked right into the eyes of Jesus. He smirked. Then, he kissed him – emphatically on the cheek.
But as wild-eyed with surprise the other disciples were, Jesus was at ease. He had been expecting them. “Friend, do you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” Then, seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest.
Here’s the part that’s most incredible. After the interaction with Judas and the mob is surrounding him, Jesus asks them who they came for. When they say his name – Jesus simply says, “I am he.” He doesn’t run. He doesn’t hide. He doesn’t fight.
In fact, as He says that some kind of divine, supernatural force that knocks all of the soldiers to the ground. It’s a glimpse into the power and the strength that he could unleash at any time.
But Jesus didn’t unleash it. Instead? Instead he extended his arms, let the chains fasten around them, and he let them lead him away.
Isn’t it amazing? In spite the betrayal he endured from Judas and from you and from me, Jesus would not betray his mission. Jesus would not betray us. Jesus would not betray you. Scripture says, “When we were dead in our sins, God made us alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins.”
That means If you have betrayed Jesus’, bow your head in shame, sure. But please lift it once more to see Jesus’ love. Watch as he holds out his hands. Listen as he quietly says, “Go ahead. Arrest me.” Cringe as he endures insults. Follow as he walks step after step after step through that dark night – knowing full well that a cross awaited him.
Rest assured. Rest assured knowing that Jesus went through this, because he knew that on the other side of this suffering was you. A perfect existence with you. A peaceful, perfect existence for you by faith in him. In Him. IN HIM.
Brothers and sisters, by faith in Jesus, your betrayals have been forgiven. You are at peace with God.
Don’t betray that truth. Trust in it. Trust in Jesus.
Judas didn’t do that. Instead, Judas had a terrible ending. His guilt was so great that he figured Jesus could never forgive him. He ran back to the Pharisees and threw his silver on the ground. Then, he threw his life away as he hung from a tree.
Don’t you do the same. It isn’t too late. Not for you. Not matter what you’ve done. It isn’t too late because Jesus did not betray you. Repent. Turn from sin. Turn to your Savior.
He will never betray you. Amen.