April 2, 2017
I can’t really believe it, but today is week 5 in our series called the Ransom. The big idea for the series is that we are looking at what Jesus gave up in order to set us free from sin and death.
Today, we change that focus just slightly. Instead of looking at what Jesus gave up, we are looking at the type of people that Jesus set free. To really appreciate the price Jesus paid, we have to examine ourselves. Then the amazing love of our Savior will stand out and impact us all the more.
So with that being said, how many of you have made a promise before? Yeah, I’ve made promises too. Anne and I got married between my internship and my senior year of seminary. I remember one night, it was after dinner, and my single friends were getting together to hang out, and I wanted to go up and hang out with them. So I ran it by Anne, and I told her that I was just going to go up for a little bit but I’d be home around 10:00. I promise. Well, circumstances changed. I was having fun, and next thing you know it, I’m walking in at midnight.
We’ve all made promises that are based on circumstances haven’t we? Maybe you promised to be at your child’s game, but circumstances at work changed and you had to miss it. You promised your family that you were going to stand strong and fight your addiction whether that be porn, drugs, or alcohol. Then circumstances change and you find yourself breaking that promise. You promise your spouse that you’d do something around the house that they want you to do. But then time passes, circumstances change, and you never get around to it.
After falling into that same sin you always fall into, you tell God that you promise to not do it again. Circumstances change, and you fall into it again. We’ve all been there haven’t we? We promise something, but then our circumstances change, then we break our promises. And for many of us, that is also how our faith works.
For many, faith is based on circumstances.
When things are going well, our faith in Jesus is strong. As long as I’m healthy and wealthy, my faith is burning inside me. But when things turn bad in my life, when health issues, financial problems, or sufferings for my faith come in, things aren’t so good. When circumstances are good, we are strong believers. But change the circumstances, and we aren’t so strong.
If you’ve ever been in that situation, you aren’t alone. Today, we look at a man whose faith was based on circumstances. We continue in the book of Mark. Mark is one of 4 writers who focus on Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Last week we saw Jesus standing before the Jewish court. While the illegal court is going on, Peter was outside in the courtyard. Now before we look at what happened there, let’s go back a few hours. Jesus and his disciples celebrated the Passover meal, his last supper. And here’s the conversation that took place:
27 “You will all fall away,” Jesus told them, “for it is written:
“‘I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep will be scattered.’
28 But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”
29 Peter declared, “Even if all fall away, I will not.”
30 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “today—yes, tonight—before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.”
31 But Peter insisted emphatically, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the others said the same.Mark 14:27-31
Notice how many I’s there are from Peter. Even if all fall away, I won’t. Even if I have to die with you I will never disown you. I, I, I. Peter was pretty brave and courageous, even sure of himself as he sat around the table with Jesus and fellow Christians. He was so confident that even when Jesus says, “Here’s what Scripture says is going to happen,” Peter said, “Nope. Scripture is wrong. I won’t fall away. Not me Jesus. I won’t.”
But Peter’s faith is all about him. In fact, you could say…
Peter’s faith relied on Peter.
He had all the faith in the world the he could stand strong. He had a strong enough faith. He would never give it up he had confidence in himself. And bolstered by the circumstances, he talked a big game. He’s sitting around the table with all these Christians. But just a few hours later we see his circumstances change. Peter is now in the courtyard where there are no Christians.
66 While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came by. 67 When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him.
“You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus,” she said.
68 But he denied it. “I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about,” he said, and went out into the entryway.
Peter is standing there warming himself by the fire when the servant girl recognizes him, and looked closely at him.
Last week Anne and I ate at Dahlia café. As we are sitting there eating, a family walks in. And I look at Anne and said, “I know that guy.” And for the rest of dinner I kept looking over at him trying to figure out where I knew him from. I finally figured it out, and in the middle of our conversation I said, “HA! I figured it out! I know where I know him from.”
That’s what happened here. This girl looks at Peter and finally figures it out. “You were with Jesus.” And he denies it. He plays dumb. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Who is this Jesus guy?” Suddenly the fires a little too warm. Time to go cool off. So he leaves and heads to the entryway.
68 But he denied it. “I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about,” he said, and went out into the entryway.
69 When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, “This fellow is one of them.” 70 Again he denied it.
After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, “Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.”
71 He began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about.”
The servant girl follows him out to the entryway. This she tells those around her, “Hey, he was one of them!” Again, he denies it. This time he doesn’t move, probably hoping and praying the matter is dropped. But then those around him start to chime in. “Yeah, you are one of them. You’re a Galilean. We can tell you aren’t from the south in Jerusalem. You are a Yankee from up north in Galilee.”
Now Peter begins to really panic, and he begins to call down curses. This isn’t swearing. He’s not saying, “I swear I don’t know him.” This is cursing. This is using the phrase GD. He is asking God to send something/someone to hell if he actually knows Jesus.
Peter’s circumstances changed. Gone were the heroics. Gone was the brave and courageous leader of the disciples. He gets away from his friends, and a servant girl makes him crumble. After promising Jesus that he’d never disown him, he denies knowing Jesus not once, not twice, but three times. And then Peter hears something that brings him back.
72 Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.” And he broke down and wept.
Peter broke down because the object of his faith failed him.
Who was the object of Peter’s faith? Himself right? He had faith in himself and his own abilities, and he failed. He promised Jesus that he would never deny him because he had a big enough faith. His faith was so great that he would never disown Jesus. He was so brave and full of faith that even if he had to die with Jesus he’d never disown him. But then Peter was questioned. And suddenly it was, “Jesus who?”
When I was at Seminary, I worked for a window cleaning company called “Squeegee Squad.” I know, please try to contain your laughter. I worked there with one of my classmates, and one day we were at this woman’s house cleaning her windows. She asked if this was our full time job. We said, “No we are studying to be pastors.” This woman said, “Oh, well I’m Jewish.” Silence. Immediately, I began to think, “What am I going to say? I don’t know what to say? What do I do? Please don’t call on me.” Apparently my friend was thinking the same thing because he finally spoke and said, “Oh, well that’s good.” And that was the end of the discussion.
We drove a half hour back to the office in silence. Here we were, two guys studying to be professionals at proclaiming God’s Word and the salvation that is found only in Jesus. In the classroom we talk a big game of how we can’t wait to get out there and tell people about Jesus. We are going to convert the world. But you get us out of the classroom of Christians and we aren’t so tough. How could God ever trust me to be a pastor? How could he want me? We did exactly what Peter did. Yes, I didn’t verbally deny Jesus, but mine was a silent denial.
Peter looked to himself to save his own skin, we look to ourselves to save face. And when we take our eyes off of Jesus and we make it all about us, we will end up denying Jesus.
When you’re at your child’s game, family reunion, you’re at the bar, or out with friends, and Christianity comes up, do you speak up, or silently pray the same prayer I was? “Please don’t ask me.” We get scared because we don’t think we’ll know what to say. Or we think, “What can we really say that will change someone’s mind?” And so we remain silent. We’ve made it all about us.
That or we are afraid of feeling foolish. We don’t want people to think we are less intelligent because we believe in creation, or because we believe that God died and rose again. We feel foolish because of the Bible’s view on sexuality.
But we’re also scared of rejection. What if I speak up and my friend disagrees with me? What if they don’t want to talk to me again? What if you go knocking on doors with us next Saturday and someone doesn’t like that you’re at their door? We don’t like that. We don’t want to make things awkward so that our friends ignore us, or to make things awkward in the work place. At a holiday family dinner, we don’t want to make things awkward by defending Christianity so we remain silent; too scared of rejection.
But notice who is behind all of these attitudes: me. I’m scared that I’m going to look foolish. I’m scared that I’m going to be rejected. I’m scared that I won’t know what to say. What could I actually say that will make them change?
But stop and think for a second. Imagine that you were really kidnapped, and the kidnapper set the price of $1 million for your ransom. Now imagine that a random guy came and paid that ransom for you. Would you be ashamed of him? No, you’d want to tell everyone about him. Here, Jesus has done more than pay a million dollars. He’s paid the price to set you free from sin and death. That’s far greater than setting you free from a kidnapper.
Rejection and foolishness are two of the main reasons why we don’t actively want to talk to people about our faith. It’s why we don’t actively invite our friends to church. But have you ever left a situation where you didn’t speak up? When you dodged the question? Or had the opportunity to share your faith, and you chose not to say anything? If so, you know the guilt that you face. You know You were ashamed of him. What kind of people are we? We are just like Peter. We tend to be faithless people.
The events played out just like Jesus said they would. After he rose from the dead, he went ahead of them to Galilee. There the disciples met him, and Jesus said to Peter, “Let’s go for a walk.” As they walked along the beach, Jesus said:
15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “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.”
Peter wasn’t willing to say that he loved Jesus more than the others. He wasn’t going to stand up and talk about how brave he was or how he was more dedicated than the others. All he could say is, “Lord, you know I love you.” Jesus says, “Feed my lambs.”
Jesus knew Peter was going to deny him. Peter said so emphatically he wouldn’t, but then circumstances changed, and he disowned Jesus. But now Jesus says, “Peter I still want you to proclaim the good news of my life, death, and resurrection.”
That’s crazy isn’t it!? If I were out in public and you overheard me saying to someone, “Yeah this Christianity thing is a joke. I don’t even believe it.” Do you think you’d trust me to be a pastor? Do you think the Wisconsin synod would? Probably not. But that’s exactly what Jesus does with Peter. Why? Because Peter understood what it meant that Jesus loves unconditionally. He disowned Jesus. He knew he was faithless. He knew Jesus should cast him out and have nothing to do with him. But that’s why Jesus died. He died for faithless ones like Peter. When you experience unconditional love like that, your eyes are never on yourself anymore, but only on Jesus.
Jesus loves you in that same way. You know how you’ve let him down. You remember the time you were prayed that no one asks you about your faith. You know the awful things you’ve said to God when you’re angry. You remember how you said you’d never sin like that again but then failed God and family. You feel as though Jesus should have or want nothing to do with you.
But then Jesus comes to you and says, “I love you. I forgive you. I’ve paid the price to set you free. I will never cast you out.” Where will you find unconditional love like this? Only in Jesus. Only in the one who did not come to be served but to serve, and give his life as a ransom for many. Your faith will stumble. It will sometimes be weaker and sometimes it’ll be strong, but the good news is that…
You are saved not by how big your faith is, but by the object of your faith.
And the object of your faith is Jesus. He knew what you’d do and who you are and yet he still loved you so much that he willingly paid the ransom price to set you free.
You have experienced the unconditional love that the world is looking for. It’s a love only found in our Savior. Now Jesus says, “Tell the world of this love.” It’s a love that loves you no matter what you’ve done. It’s a love that makes us eager to stand up and tell others no matter what the circumstance.