Denying Christ

I.       Introduction – What Do We Do Under Pressure?

It is easy to be a Christian at church.  We are in our safe place.  We have no triggers.  We are surrounded by brothers and sisters who encourage us.  So, it is easy to stand here in our safe environment and say, “I am a follower of Jesus Christ.”

But when we are in a less-friendly environment, do we still profess Christ?  When we’re at work?  When we’re in line at the grocery store?  Even when we’re visiting with friends?

There are good, biblical reasons to share our faith; first and foremost is because Christ Himself calls us to do so.  Matthew 28:19 says,

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations.” 

You can’t make disciples if you don’t tell them about Jesus.  At least, not any method I’ve found.  It is through hearing and reading the Word that we get to know God.

We share the gospel because God first loved us.  And God continues to love us and forgive us despite our many failings.  In the same way, He wants us to share that love and forgiveness to each other and with the world.  It’s our calling, so show others the life of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling within.

And that love from the Lord compels us to extend an invitation of eternal life to a lost and dying world.  Especially in these days of fear of the global pandemic, the world seems to have woken up to the fact that death is possible, even inevitable, and wants us to hide in our rooms and lock the door and keep death at bay.  We proudly proclaim that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and we want others may know eternal life and not be sentenced to an eternity of hell because they choose not to belief that Jesus is who he says He is.

At least we do here, inside of the safe walls of the church.  But when I am in the world, there are less-flattering words to describe the demonstration of my faith.  Reluctance.  Shyness.  Embarrassment.  I care too much what people think about me, and I don’t want people to think I’m some sort of religious nut.  And there are far more worldly people ready to judge me than there are sympathetic religious nuts like you and me.  We – I – need to learn and practice to overcome any fear and pride, and realize there is nothing more important in this life than sharing the good news.  Ephesians 6:13,

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

Hence, the very purpose of our bible study class, Stand Firm.

When I was a younger Christian, I was not an example of a good Christian.  You couldn’t tell I was Christian by my lifestyle even though I grew up in the Catholic Church and believed in Jesus.  If I had to fill out a questionnaire and check a box about my religion, I was not afraid to fill in the little bubble that said “Christian.”

When God is calling you, as I believe God was calling me, He challenges your own belief.  If I say I have faith, then God says, well, let’s see if you have faith.  And He puts me on the edge of that faith to let me honestly see that my view of myself can be hypocritical.  I think I am a good person, but I fall short.

I missed my opportunity to share my testimony a few weeks back on Resurrection Sunday, I was spending the Lord’s Day with my wife.  Things are well between us today, but we have been through some very rocky ground.

Some of you know that in 1996, I divorced my wife.  I wasn’t much of a Christian then.  My wife would say I showed no evidence of being a Christian.  Christian or not, going through a divorce was, as you can imagine, a most difficult time for me.  I still loved my wife, but I divorced her anyway.  I was scared, I was selfish and I leaned on my own understanding on what I thought was best for me.  And God showed me the first of my hypocrisies: I wanted to believe I was a good Christian, and there was the truth that I had divorced my wife. 

And I hit my knees for the first time in my life.  No more faking it, no more pretending I was better than I was.  I told God I was finally ready to trust in His ways because my ways sucked.  Whereas before I was going to church for the wrong reason, mostly to improve my social life, now I wanted to know God.  Where had I gone wrong, and how could I now go right? 

Where God challenges, God also provides.  During this time, a pastor took me aside and spent several weeks repairing my foundation.  I’m reminded of this passage from Matthew 7:24-27 –

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.  And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

I didn’t even realize my foundation had been built on sand.  Who does, until the floods came?  But now I’m on my knees and I’m studying and I’m trying to figure out what it means for my life to be built on Jesus.

But what held me back from living a new life?  My knowledge that I was an awful Christian.  I spent years chasing women and hanging out in bars.  I divorced my wife.  The only evidence of my faith was some obscure questionnaire somewhere where I had filled in that little bubble that said “Christian.”  I may want to know God better, but I didn’t blame God if He didn’t want to know me.  I was an awful example of a believer.

Two pieces of scripture were key to my development as a Christian.  First was Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God,” and second was the story of Peter denying Christ.  Let’s watch a little movie snippet.  This is from the movie, “The Passion of the Christ.”  Jesus has been arrested and taken to Herod in preparation for the Jews to turn Jesus over to the Romans for crucifixion.  Peter had told Jesus that no matter what trouble came, Peter would never leave Jesus.

II.    Jesus’ Prophecy

The scene is chaotic; when I was young, I had pictured Peter in a safe place when He was asked about Jesus.  It was far from a safe place; Peter’s own life was in danger.

There are many things I learned from this scene.  The first thing I learned was that my failures were not secrets.  It’s not as though the failures in my life were completely unknown to an omniscient God.  Jesus knows all.  He knows exactly who I am, who I was, who I am going to be.  

Years ago, when Theresa was teaching from the book of Luke, she used a phrase that I thought illustrated me perfectly.  I was frozen in my failure.  I couldn’t forgive myself, so nobody could forgive me.  I was frozen forever in my failure.

In the story of Peter’s denial, I found the story of myself.  I was Peter, and my faith was lacking.  Matthew 26:31, Jesus quotes from Zechariah 13:7 and tells of a future that has not yet happened.

Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written:
‘I will strike the Shepherd,
And the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’
But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.”

But Jesus is not just going to fulfill this scripture, he tells the disciples that they, too, will fulfill this scripture.  The sheep that follow Jesus Christ will abandon him and scatter.

Peter has a lot of pride in his belief in Jesus.  Pride can be defined as putting oneself on the throne of God.  God may have said something, but it doesn’t apply to me.  God may have a plan, but I have something even better planned, and God just has to get on board with it.  I am a good Christian man who drank, chased women, and then divorced his wife.  Peter, like me, has a better plan, and tells Jesus that Jesus is wrong.  Matthew 26, verse 33,

Peter answered and said to Him, “Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble.”

What arrogance to tell Jesus that Peter will never stumble, even though Jesus just prophesied that he would.  Peter knows better than God, just like I knew better than God what was best for me.  This same scene is played out in our bible verses today, in Luke 22:33, Peter says,

But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”

But is that what Peter did?  Peter’s pride led him to say one thing, but in fear, what Peter did was something else entirely.

How is your pride?  Do you ever tell God what He needs to do?  Do you pray for other people to change, for situations to change for your benefit, for good things to happen to you?  Do you do things that God disapproves of, but rationalize it somehow that it’s not *that* bad and God put you in this situation in the first place?

I remember a woman years ago, a friend of my wife, that had spent years praying for a husband.  She eventually found a substitute, a married man.  When confronted, she said she had prayed about it, she had peace, and God had told her it was ok, He was answering her prayers.  She’s saying to God, just get on board with my plan here.  Diane told her she may be praying to God, but she’s not hearing from God.

Pride is very hard to eliminate, to humble ourselves like Jesus did by going to the cross.  Every time I think I’m getting a handle on pride, I think, “Wow, I’m getting really good at being humble.  In fact, I’m extraordinary at it.  I should enter a humility contest.  Maybe I can win a Humility trophy.”  For me, it comes up most often when I compare myself to somebody else. Sometimes it’s skills – I am better at math, so I’m a better person than somebody who isn’t.  Sometimes it’s appearance: I may be overweight, but at least I’m not as overweight as *that* person.  Maybe we compare money or our car.  Some even compare their religious piety, saying, “at least I’m a better Christian than that divorced Christian man.” 

Benjamin Franklin once said,

In reality, there is, perhaps, no one of our natural passions so hard to subdue as pride. Disguise it, struggle with it, beat it down, stifle it, mortify it as much as one pleases, it is still alive, and will every now and then peep out and show itself; you will see it, perhaps, often in this history; for, even if I could conceive that I had compleatly overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility.

Pride is something we all suffer from.  If we think we do not suffer from pride, then it is possible pride is blinding us to our pride.  Pride is real easy to recognize in others, though, isn’t it?  It’s because when we see pride in somebody else, we’re smugly saying, “*I* don’t suffer from pride like *he* does.”  Like Benjamin Franklin, we are being proud of our humility. 

C.S. Lewis has this to say about pride:

According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is pride. Unchastity, anger, grief, drunkenness, and all that, are mere flea-bites in comparison; it was through pride that the devil became the devil; pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind… In God you come up against something which is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself. Unless you know God as that- and, therefore know yourself as nothing in comparison- you do not know God at all. As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see Something that is above you.

Peter’s pride led him to tell Jesus that Peter alone would never betray Christ, even if all the other disciples scattered.

And Jesus response was that, not only were Jesus and Peter going to fulfill the prophecy of Zechariah, there was a new prophecy just for Peter.  Luke 22:34 –

Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”

III. Peter Denies Christ

You try telling God you know better than Him and see how well that works out for you.  For me, it didn’t.  My sin led me to my knees, but I didn’t feel like my life was good enough to present to Jesus.  The Catholic Church had taught me to feel guilty, and that divorced people couldn’t receive communion.  I was a non-practicing divorced Catholic that chased women and was not allowed to accept Christ.  Where did I go wrong?

Of course when I was given an opportunity to tell people about Jesus, I hedged.  I changed the subject.  I talked about the weather.  I mean, seriously, I was such a bad example of a Christian there was no way I could tell people that Jesus was part of my life.  It would be an embarrassment to both me and to God.  I would never put a fish on my car because I was such a bad example, I didn’t want anybody to know.   I was afraid they’d look at the fish and then they’d look at me, and see right through my hypocrisy.  “You call yourself a Christian and you drive like that?  You are such a hypocrite.”

In Luke 22:54,

Now they arrested Him and led Him away, and brought Him to the house of the high priest; but Peter was following at a distance.

Peter was nearby.  Peter was not walking with Christ, but he was walking near Christ.  I think a lot of Christians, including me, have been in this position of walking near Christ instead of with Christ.  Peter was in the courtyard.  In Luke 22:55-57,

After they kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter was sitting among them.  And a slave woman, seeing him as he sat in the firelight, and staring at him, said, “This man was with Him as well.”  But he denied it, saying, “I do not know Him, woman!”

Given the opportunity to proclaim Christ, to tell Peter’s testimony about Jesus, Peter says, “I don’t even know Jesus.  I’m not one of those religious nutjobs.”  Verse 58,

And a little later, another person saw him and said, “You are one of them too!” But Peter said, “Man, I am not!”

Peter doesn’t want to be associated with the Son of God who will give Peter eternal life.  He tells the crowd again he’s not with Jesus, and Jesus is not with Peter. And verses 59-60.

And after about an hour had passed, some other man began to insist, saying, “Certainly this man also was with Him, for he, too, is a Galilean.”  But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about!” And immediately, while he was still speaking, a rooster crowed.

(((Rooster Crowing)))

Of course, the prophecy of Jesus was fulfilled.  Of course, Peter denied Christ.  When the going got tough, Peter wanted to save himself.  He had a better plan than God. 

But you know the worst part?  The Lord knew.  Jesus knew.  Every denial from Peter was seen by Christ in advance, and Christ heard Peter’s denial in real time.  Christ was there.  Christ watched and listed to Peter’s every denial.  Verses 61-62,

And then the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had told him, “Before a rooster crows today, you will deny Me three times.”  And he went out and wept bitterly.

             IV.      Peter Weeps

Peter wept.  I think many of us get to a place where we are broken.  When we realize we are not the person we wanted to believe we are and our eyes are opened to just how far we fall short of the glory of God, we’re broken.  Peter wept.

I used to look at Peter and say, “Man, what an idiot.  I can’t believe he’d deny Christ like that.  Doesn’t he know who Jesus is?”

And in my bible study with that pastor back in 1998, I realized I was Peter.  I was the idiot that denied Christ.  Despite telling myself that I was such a good person, I finally realized how far short of the goal I was.  I had decided I knew better than God what was best for me and I dragged around my religion like garbage I was ashamed of, and when it came time for me to choose between obedience and selfishness, between trust and pride, I chose me.  I denied the plan Jesus had for me because I wanted to save myself.  My plan was better than God’s.  And when I finally realized I was Peter, I wept.  In front of that Pastor in 1998, I broke down and cried.

No wonder Jesus had no use for me.  I was a terrible Christian.  I was lost.  I was on the outside looking in, and that I’d never be one of the sheep that Christ promised to hold in His hands.

Ever felt that despair?  That you’re not good enough?  That Christ can’t use you because you’re flawed in so many ways?  I wouldn’t blame Jesus if He never spoke to Peter again, completely disowned him.  Just like I felt Jesus had disowned me because I had failed Him in so many ways.

I remember hearing about an organization that translated the bible into obscure languages in audio form so these unreached people could hear the Word of the Lord.  One of their testimonies was translating to a tribe that that lived apart from the main tribe due to a contagious skin disease.  People in the village that caught the disease were sent up the mountain to live the remainder of their lives, shunned by their village.  Over time, up in the mountain, the shunned people had developed a unique dialect, so it was an amazing blessing to them to hear the New Testament in words they could understand.

Something interesting happened when they got to Luke 8.  I want to show the original passage in Luke 8:42-48,

As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.

“Who touched me?” Jesus asked.

When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.”

But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.”

Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”

When the gospel got to the part where the unclean woman reached out to touch the robe of Jesus, the tribe were all on the edge of their seats and they gasped.  And when Jesus said, “your faith as healed you,” the tribe broke down and cried.

Why would they cry at this story?  It is because they believed they were so unclean, so unworthy, that when Jesus said, “Who touched my robe?” they were certain Jesus would call down fire from the sky and destroy the woman.  But Jesus responded in love.  Their disease did not prohibit them from receiving the love of Jesus.  The tribe understood that the love of Jesus was greater than any disease they had.

I repeat, have you ever felt that despair?  That you’re not good enough?  Christ can’t use you because you’re dirty and unclean?

          V.      Peter is Forgiven

But that’s not what Jesus did for the tribe of unclean people.  That’s not what Jesus did for the woman who touched His robe, and that’s not what Jesus did for Peter.  Despite Peter’s best efforts at running from Jesus, Jesus still loved Peter.

After the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the disciples were out fishing.  They caught, well, literally, a boat load of fish, and brought it to shore.  And Jesus was there, and prepares a cooking fire and prepares breakfast for the disciples.  I can only imagine that Peter was embarrassed, staying at the back of the twelve disciples.  He had denied Jesus, what use did Jesus have of Peter?  But rather than shun Peter, Jesus seeks out Peter, well, let’s see this in John 21:15-17,

Now when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My lambs.” He said to him again, a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.”  He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was hurt because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus *said to him, “Tend My sheep.

Three times Jesus prompts Peter to declare that Peter loves his Savior.  Three times Peter had denied Jesus.  For each denial, Jesus rescued Peter with His love.

Jesus doesn’t hold grudges; that’s what our sin nature does.  We hold grudges.  We even hold grudges against ourselves.  Jesus doesn’t have a sin nature, and He welcomes us in love, despite our failures.  Sometimes I think it’s actually because of our failures.  If we resist His will, He’s not going use us.  He wants us to go with Him willingly, without resistance.  And it’s only when we realize our failures and that Christ loves us unconditionally that we truly begin to understand the character of God.   It doesn’t have anything to do with us.

God knows we are weak.  He loves us anyway, especially when we agree with God that we are weak.  Paul put it this way in 2 Corinthians 12 when he pleaded for God to remove the thorn from his flesh:

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.  Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Despite denying Jesus three times, Jesus loved Peter.  Not because of who Peter is, but because of who Jesus is.  Not because of who I am, but because of who Jesus is.

       III.      Conclusion

Once I realized I was Peter and Jesus still loved me, it opened a door for me, one that led to joy and peace.  I learned that my dirty life was not too filthy for me to be a follower of Jesus.  My filth helped me realize that I was indeed powerless to save myself, that thinking I was a good person was not the same thing as being a good person.  I had sinned, but I was in good company.  All have sinned and fallen short.  In fact, that’s the point, nobody is worthy enough on their own merits to deserve Jesus.  Jesus died for me, not because I was a good person, but because I wasn’t.  Without Jesus, I was destined for the fires of hell no matter how I tried to fool myself that it’ll be ok.  I needed a savior.

Wherever you are in your spiritual growth, you’re not too bad that Jesus doesn’t want to get to know you.  There is nothing in your life that disqualifies you from a relationship with our loving, heavenly Father.  One of the most important things to me that I learned during this time was just how powerful my God is.  I had always assumed when I was a young Christian that God was just a little smarter, just a little more moral than me.  Catholic school had taught me I was going to have to work off my sins in Purgatory, and my sins were so great I’d be working a long, long time.  I had a little god.

I have a big God now.  Bigger than any storm, bigger than any persecution, bigger than any failure, bigger than all my sins.  There is nothing in this world, including the entire world, that is too big for my God to handle.  He is the great I AM. 

Despite our failures, or perhaps because of our failures, we just have to confess our sins to the Lord and he forgives and forgets as far as the east is from the west. Despite our failures, we are adopted children of the Creator of the Universe.

God loves His children and provides good gifts for our abundant life and to His glory.  He gave me the chance to undo the biggest mistake I had ever made.  9 years after I divorced my wife, she called me out of the blue to tell me she forgave me.  Separately and miraculously, each of us had come to Christ and been baptized, new creations, made for His purpose.  Six months later, we were remarried.  Next month we celebrate 16 months of marriage.  God is amazing.

Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:15,

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

Jesus is the only way to eternal security, He is the Alpha, the Omega, the very Word of God made flesh, the Lamb of God sacrificed so that my sins are forgiven and my eternity secure.  Jesus died for me because I needed Him.  I was never going to earn my way into heaven.  Jesus paid the price, the whole price, for me, a sinner.  And He paid the price for you, too.  Despite all your flaws, God thinks you’re worth the sacrifice. 

The depths of His love for us is amazing.

To God be the glory.  Amen.

Willing

             I.      Introduction

From time to time, we all come to a big decision in our lives.  I’ve lost my job; what should I do now?  I have a medical issue; how should I treat it?  Is this person right for me?  Should I compromise, or should I stand my ground?

We are faced with decisions often.  Yearly, monthly, daily.  Some of the decisions we face are very mundane.  Should I wear this tie today?  Some are more serious.  Should I go to church and bible study today?  And some are serious indeed: job, family, friends, moral choices.  Many times, the choice affects not just you, but several or many people.

Several years ago, I had made a decision to get Lasik surgery to get rid of my very thick glasses.  I read up the procedure, became familiar with the different types, selected a doctor and had the examinations and evaluations.  And then the day finally came for me to have the operation.  It was only a 10 minute operation, max, to treat both eyes.

There was a small hiccup.  Apparently I have small pupils, but they had to be very dilated before the surgery could begin.  So while it took 3 different treatments of those drops they put into your eyes, so they kept slipping my treatment later and later waiting for my eyes to dilate.  I had time to walk around the doctor’s office.

Now, this doctor had a glass-walled operating table.  I could see a patient laying on the table, bit computerize contraption over their head as the doctor began to work.  And he also had a television monitor outside so you could see the surgery up close.  And I watched an extreme close-up of an eye sliced open and lasered.  And my appointment was next.

I don’t recommend that for anybody.  I had been calm, cool, collected up until this point, but watching an eye sliced opened and lasered ten minutes before this butcher, Dr. Frankenstein, would do his science experiment on me filled me with anxiety.  What was I thinking?  What if something went wrong?  Would this hurt?  What if I was blinded?  Can I change my mind?  Can I get a refund?  You know, now that I think of it, coke bottle glasses aren’t so bad after all.  I mean, I had a lot of anxiety about this decision.

I can hardly imagine the anxiety Jesus faced with His most important decision.  Jesus’ decision would make would affect the world and he would suffer serious pain, humiliation, and then death.  How did Jesus get through this decision?  That’s what we’re going to study today in Luke 22.

          II.      Luke 22, The Ministry of Jesus

First, let’s summarize where we are in history.  Jesus has been teaching us parables, teaching us behaviors, and teaching us scripture and prophecy.  But the end of the chapter of Luke is coming, and with that is the climax, the purpose for Jesus Himself.  Soon, to fulfill prophecy, Jesus will suffer and die on the cross.

Luke 22 has a series of disappointments for Jesus.  His ministry is nearly complete, and those closest to Him let Him down.  Let’s look at a couple of quick verses –

Verse 1-2,

Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was approaching.  And the chief priests and the scribes were trying to find a way to put Him to death, since they were afraid of the people.

These are the pastors, the deacons, the bible study teachers of Jesus’ time.  They studied God’s Word looking for His purpose, and instead of recognizing Jesus for who He is, they plotted to kill Him.  There are two very serious problems here – one, despite all their studying, they don’t accept the Messiah that fulfills prophecy.  Were they really studying, seeking God’s purpose?  I think one could answer that by the second problem, they sought to deal with Jesus by trying to kill Him.

How many commandments are there?  Do one of the commandments deal with killing people you don’t like?  So these leaders either weren’t really studying and didn’t know, or they were so full of their own self-righteousness that they believed the law didn’t apply to them.

And in verses 3-6,

And Satan entered Judas, the one called Iscariot, who belonged to the number of the twelve.  And he left and discussed with the chief priests and officers how he was to betray Him to them.  And they were delighted, and agreed to give him money.  And so he consented, and began looking for a good opportunity to betray Him to them away from the crowd.

The disciples are all eating supper together, the Passover meal.  And Jesus knows He is having supper with Judas Iscariot, His betrayer.  A man who has spent the last 3 years studying and traveling with Jesus.  And Judas, hand-picked by the Lord Himself, leads a mob from the Sanhedrin to arrest Jesus.

And in next week’s lesson, the Sanhedrin put on a sham trial in order to convict Jesus who was innocent of any sin.  And between the mob and the trial, one of His closest disciples, Peter, who promised never to deny Jesus did exactly that.  And Luke 22 closes with Jesus alone, abandoned by His friends and convicted by those who wanted to kill Him.

Jesus knew all these things would happen.  How do you think Jesus felt?  Knowing all these things were to happen, Jesus was hurt, troubled, distressed, and even scared.  Jesus is God, but Jesus is also man.  He was about to suffer for who He was.

So the night before Judas leads the soldiers of the High Priests to Jesus to arrest Him, Jesus has to make a decision.  What steps did Jesus take to make sure He was making the right decision?

       III.      The Prayer of Jesus

Luke 22:39-41 –

And He came out and went, as was His habit, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples also followed Him.  Now when He arrived at the place, He said to them, “Pray that you do not come into temptation.”  And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and began to pray,

How would you describe Jesus’ emotions this night? 

Why do you think it was important for Jesus to take some disciples to the garden for prayer?

When people face a difficult decision, what type of person do they turn to?

What’s the first thing Jesus did when faced with a difficult decision? 

The garden of Gethsemane was most probably an olive garden on the western slope of the Mount of Olives.  Other scripture indicates that Jesus came here more than once with His disciples; it was probably a peaceful, quiet place.  Jesus took His closes friends – Peter, James, and John  – with Him for support. 

The NIV says Jesus was troubled; the NASB version translates this word as “horrified.”  His human self and sense of self-preservation was now at battle with His spiritual side.  It had all come down to this.  Three years of walking among the people, healing them and teaching them, offering a chance to know and accept Him and knowing that they would reject him.  Before the next 24 hours were complete, Jesus would offer himself up for the world and for you and for me.  The worst part must have been the anticipation, the anxiety of knowing that tomorrow He would die, and die painfully.  Julius Caesar once said, “It is easier to find men who will volunteer to die than it is to find those willing to endure pain with patience. 

And with those thoughts in His mind, Jesus fell to His knees and began to pray.

It is easy to forget the power of prayer.  Our prayers are shallow.  Somebody tells us about their pain or their anxiety, and we put our hand on their shoulder and say, “I’ll pray for you.”  And I suspect most of the time we don’t.  We return to our own life and forget our promise to pray.  What are some of the reasons we don’t pray?  (No immediate gratification, we’re too busy, we doubt the prayer will be answered.)

Let’s look at Jesus’ prayer in Luke 22:41b-46 –

He began to pray, saying, “Abba, Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him.  And being in agony, He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground.  When He rose from prayer, He came to the disciples and found them sleeping from sorrow, and He said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you do not come into temptation.”

a. Prayer Depends on Our Relationship

The normal method of prayer for Jews is a standing position with palms up and open to address God.  Jesus’ prayer is radical for the time; first, he’s not standing.  He fell to the ground.  He is in a position of pleading, making an urgent request.  And His first word is…. Abba.  This is not the musical group Abba of the 70’s.  Abba is a term of endearment, a child’s word.  Children in our culture might say “Dada;” the Jewish children said “Abba.”

And the first thing we know about Jesus’ prayer is that He knew who He was praying to.  He had a relationship with God, a close, personal relationship.  “Abba” is used three times in the New Testament.  The second time is Romans 8:15 by Paul –

For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”

And the third time in Galatians 4:6,

And because you Gentiles have become his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, and now you can call God your dear Father, Abba.

When you pray, who do you pray to?  A concept?  A belief?  The Force, like in Star Wars?  Some vague deity somewhere in the sky?  God wants more from you.  He wants you to know Him as He knows you already.  He wants an intimate, personal relationship.  That sounds great.  How do I do that? 

If we are going to pray to God “the” Father then it better be to God “our” Father.  He only becomes our Father when we become his children.  How do we become a child of God?  John 1:12, “But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.”

And as His Children, do we have any chores to do?  Philippians 2:15, 

“You are to live clean, innocent lives as children of God in a dark world full of crooked and perverse people. Let your lives shine brightly before them.” 

This relationship should be evident to others; 1 John 3:10,

“So now we can tell who are children of God and who are children of the Devil. Anyone who does not obey God’s commands and does not love other Christians does not belong to God.”

You are a child of God if you have believed in Jesus and accept him and you live clean innocent lives and obey God’s commands. Then you can call out to Him, Abba.

b. Prayer Depends on Trusting God’s Power

Jesus also knew the power of God.  Everything is possible for you.  What’s the point of praying if you don’t believe God has the power to answer your prayers?  We have to understand and have faith that with God, everything and anything is possible.  The biggest stumbling block to believing that is everyone who prays has unanswered prayers.  I prayed and God didn’t answer. 

What we need to understand is that God does not always answer prayers the way we expect.  In my experience, most but not all my prayers are answered in ways I didn’t expect.  God doesn’t always answer our prayers; I don’t know why.  Some of my prayers I’m glad He didn’t answer.  Some of my prayers I didn’t wait for an answer and took matters into my own hands.  Some of my prayers, well, I prayed for God to make somebody else do something. 

It’s like this – I can pray that God make everybody I know be sweet and loveable.  But God doesn’t force His will on anybody.  But it’s not because God is not able.   The angel Gabriel told Mary in Luke 1:37, “For nothing is impossible with God.”

c. Prayer Depends on Asking

So Jesus prayed to His daddy, believing that God can do anything and everything, and then… Jesus prayed for himself.  I struggle with this, I don’t know why.  I feel guilty, praying for myself.  I should be praying for others, and I’m selfish if I pray for myself.  But we shouldn’t feel guilty; if we can call God “Abba,” what father doesn’t want His children to be happy?  And wouldn’t it make a father happy to give His children what they ask for? 

Think for a second about the Lord’s prayer.  How much of that prayer is for us?  Our father, give us our daily bread, forgive us, keep us from temptation.  It’s not wrong to pray for ourselves, to ask God to take care of us and provide for us and protect us.   Jesus once asked in Matthew 7:9-11, “What man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent?  If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him?”

d. Prayer Depends on Surrendering

So it’s ok to ask for things for ourselves.  But here’s the hard part – letting God decide what is right.  The fourth part Jesus’ prayer is the hardest.  “Yet not what I will, but what you will.”  How do you know the will of God?  To me, the most incredible part is that God’s will for me has, for the most part, already been written in the bible.  It’s already been revealed, I just have to seek it out.

The key, I believe to seeking it out, goes back to Jesus’ example.  Troubled and anxious and in need of God, Jesus went to a quiet place to pray, to be alone with God.  I confess I don’t always have the best quiet time with God.  I tend to shortchange prayer in my life, I pray when I’m driving or showering or studying or something.  Setting aside prayer for the sake of prayer is something I need to work on.  I study often, especially when it’s time to teach, but that’s only half of what it takes to understand God’s will.  Jesus set an example that prayer is needed, it is necessary, and it is comforting to pray to our most powerful heavenly Father. 

Jesus didn’t want to suffer, and Jesus prayed for release from the events about to occur.  But He added a “yet.”  Yet not my will, but your will.  Our prayers are most effective when we are not seeking to change God’s will, but by asking God to change us. 

What does Jesus’ prayer reveal about His trust in God?

How can our prayers reveal our trust in God?

Why was it important for Jesus to declare His commitment to God’s will?

How can a person’s actions demonstrate a commitment to follow God’s will?

    IV.      Conclusion

The best way we can begin dealing with a difficult decision is in prayer.    Pray.  Focus on God’s will.  Choose God’s will.  Then do God’s will.

Jesus gave us a four part prayer example for when we are faced with a difficult decision.  Know who you are praying to, know that He has the power to answer prayers, ask specifically what you need, and surrender your will to the Lord, your Creator, and the source of all hope.

Triumphal Entry

I. Introduction

In our bible study lessons, we are getting closer to the death and resurrection of Jesus. Oddly, just in time for Easter. What are the odds?

Jesus has been making His way toward Jerusalem for His final Passover. Along the way, He has been telling parables and teaching in synagogues. He has been describing the Kingdom of Heaven, prophesying about the end times, sharing difficult wisdom such as “It is easier to go through the eye of a needle than a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God,” healing the sick and the lame.

Jesus has set out resolutely toward Jerusalem to fulfill His purpose. And in Luke 18:31-34, Jesus tells His disciples what He’s doing, but the disciples do not understand.

Now He took the twelve aside and said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all the things that have been written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished. For He will be handed over to the Gentiles, and will be ridiculed, and abused, and spit upon, and after they have flogged Him, they will kill Him; and on the third day He will rise.” The disciples understood none of these things, and the meaning of this statement was hidden from them, and they did not comprehend the things that were said.

And they continued toward Jerusalem. Jesus gives sight to Bartimaeus, offers salvation to Zaccheus, tells the parable of the Ten Minas.

On a side note, I’ve been attending a bible study on the doctrine of the rapture, and it’s opened my eyes to better understanding some of the things Jesus says, including the Ten Minas. Jesus prefaces His parable of the Ten Minas in Luke 19:11-12 with,

Now while they were listening to these things, Jesus went on to tell a parable, because He was near Jerusalem and they thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately. So He said, “A nobleman went to a distant country to receive a kingdom for himself, and then to return.

Jesus is explaining to Israel, who is expecting their Messiah to deliver them from Roman occupation, that their expectations will not be met, at least not in the way they expect. Jesus will die, prepare a place in heaven for them, and then return. That’s what Jesus has been doing for the last 2000 years. Interceding on our behalf, and preparing a heavenly place for us.

And now, in Luke 19:28,

After Jesus said these things, He was going on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.

Jesus continues with His purpose. He has resolutely set His feet toward Jerusalem.

II. The Unridden Colt

Luke 19:29-30,

When He approached Bethphage and Bethany, near the mountain that is called Olivet, He sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village ahead of you; there, as you enter, you will find a colt tied, on which no one yet has ever sat; untie it and bring it here.

Two thousand years later, and I read this and barely give it a second read. Did you know all four gospels record this event? Why are all four gospel writers giving this focus to this event? It seems so insignificant, Jesus on a donkey.
I mentioned earlier that Jesus has been performing miracles on His way to Jerusalem. Our scripture says Jesus is near Bethany, where Jesus performed probably His greatest miracle, the raising of Lazarus from the dead, demonstrating Jesus’ power and authority over life and death. This had, as you can imagine, a huge effect on the Jewish population. Here is the scene from John 11:43-46 – Jesus prays to His Father in heaven,

And when He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” Out came the man who had died, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

Therefore many of the Jews who came to Mary, and saw what He had done, believed in Him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them the things which Jesus had done.

The next chapter, John 12 verse 9, still near Bethany, crowds are following Jesus. They’re even following Lazarus, so they may see a man raised from the dead. All the people believed Jesus was the prophesied Messiah and they yearned for His deliverance.

But the Pharisees denied He was the Messiah and plotted to kill Him. They even plotted to kill Lazarus. They wanted to destroy this revelation that the Messiah had come, not knowing or understanding that their very plot to kill Jesus was fulfilling His prophecy.

And now, Jesus asks for a donkey. What’s going on?

I think one possibility we cannot overlook is that, not only is Jesus fulfilling prophecy, He is making prophecy. In Zechariah 9:9-10 is the following prophecy about the triumphal entry of the Messiah –

Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion!
Shout in triumph, daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
He is righteous and endowed with salvation,
Humble, and mounted on a donkey,
Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

And I will eliminate the chariot from Ephraim
And the horse from Jerusalem;
And the bow of war will be eliminated.
And He will speak peace to the nations;
And His dominion will be from sea to sea,
And from the Euphrates River to the ends of the earth.

It would be easy to simply fulfill this prophecy, but Jesus adds a layer of complexity to demonstrate His sovereignty. He says in Luke 19:29-31,

When He approached Bethphage and Bethany, near the mountain that is called Olivet, He sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village ahead of you; there, as you enter, you will find a colt tied, on which no one yet has ever sat; untie it and bring it here. And if anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.’” So those who were sent left and found it just as He had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They said, “The Lord has need of it.”

Jesus said it, so it is so. This Mount of Olives is a hill outside of Jerusalem, which a day’s journey from Jerusalem. It is a place of great significance. It was on the Mount of Olives that king David wept, along with his faithful followers, as he fled from Jerusalem and from his son, Absolom. According to Zachariah 14:4, the Messiah will appear on the Mount of Olives, which would then be split in half, forming a great valley. It is here that the “triumphal entry” of the Messiah will occur.

Jesus paused here on the Mount of Olives before entering Jerusalem. He sent two of His disciples on ahead to fetch the donkey. Jesus didn’t need to ride, it was not a long walk into Jerusalem. I think this is the first time Jesus rides an animal, the only other time is in Revelation 19:11 when He returns on a white horse.

No, the purpose for riding into Jerusalem on a never-ridden foal of a donkey was to fulfill prophecy, and thereby to proclaim He is the Messiah.

Jesus’ exact knowledge of the location of the donkey, as well as the response of the owners, indicates Jesus is completely aware of and in control of His environment. The fact that the donkey on which Jesus rode had never been ridden may also be symbolic of His deity. In Numbers 19:2 and Deuteronomy 21:3, animals sacrificed to God were not to have ever borne a yoke. The unyoked, unridden donkey is a clue that the donkey is an offering to God, something to be used in His service.

I also think Jesus riding on a never-ridden donkey is also miraculous event. Ever watch those old cowboy movies with the colt bucking and leaping because it’s never been ridden or broken-in? The donkey’s owners were probably saying, “I gotta see this. I’ll get my iPhone camera and video it.”

It’s also interesting that the disciples did not ask first to borrow the donkey. Jesus as Lord has the right to use anything we think we own. Think of the various ways in which a previously unridden animal could have been acquired. Jesus Himself could have gone and asked to use it. He could have identified Himself as Messiah, and explained that He had certain prophecies to fulfill, and the use of that person’s animal would be an important contribution to His kingdom. Or Jesus could have sent His disciples to say the same thing. Once they explained who Jesus was, surely the owners would let them borrow the donkey. Or they could have rented or bought the donkey.

But that’s not the way it was done. Instead, the two disciples went into the village, and without asking, started to take the donkey. Right in front of the owners. Exactly they Jesus said to do it. Exactly the way Jesus said to. Find the donkey, take it, give an explanation only if they were challenged.

The owners said, “Hey, that’s mine,” and the amazing thing is that the disciples said, “The Lord needs it,” and the owners were like, “oh, ok.” The two disciples walked off with the donkey. No promises made to return the donkey.
Back in those days, wealth was often measured in terms of cattle. Today, it would be like getting into somebody’s Maserati and driving off. “Sorry! The Lord needs it!”

Maybe the owners understood who Jesus is, and recognized Him as Lord. If Jesus was indeed Lord, then He had every right to use what He had created.

If Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God, why did He need to borrow a donkey? Why not just … I dunno, make one? I think Jesus is consistent throughout His life. His parents didn’t stay in a fancy house, they had to borrow a stable. Jesus said He had no home of His own, and no place to rest His head, Later, Jesus was even buried in a borrowed tomb.

Why did the Creator of the Earth put Himself in a position where He had to borrow what belonged to others? Well, in the first place, everything does belong to Him. The donkey did not belong to men, but to God. They were only stewards of things. Thus, for the Son of God to “borrow” what belongs to others is really for Him to possess what is His.

Second, as the Creator of the Earth, and as the Creator of man, our Lord also possesses man. Man is not free. We are either slaves to Christ or slaves to sin. Only God is truly free, free to do with His creation as He chooses. Jesus could claim the donkey because He owned the donkey, and He owned the owners. We are His, and we belong to Him.

Today, we are far less inclined to let go of things we own. We say Jesus is Lord but withhold that which we idolize. Jesus continues this challenge to us, even today. He carries out His earthly work through the hands and feet of His disciples. It is when we release our idols, and give freely to Him that we are a testimony that He is Lord.

One day, Jesus will return and claim His kingdom and all that is in it. Nothing is exempt. Every knee will bow and profess Jesus is Lord. Our ability to do this freely of our own will is limited, and He will eventually claim His own.

III. In Service to Our Lord

Luke 19:35-40 –

They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road. 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: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

At the birth of Jesus, wise men had searched for the One who was born King of the Jews. Now, the messianic expectations of the people appeared to be at hand. They shouted, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” This echoes the praise Psalms, like Psalm 118:24-26 –

This is the day which the Lord has made;
Let’s rejoice and be glad in it.
Please, O Lord, do save us;
Please, O Lord, do send prosperity!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord;

The people believed the Messiah would come in the name and power of God to restore the kingdom to Israel. They did not understand Jesus’ kingdom was a different sort than they desired, yet they still shouted praise.
The second part of their praise also reflects aspects of Jesus’ birth. While the baby lay in a manger, shepherds were confronted with an angelic host that proclaimed, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people he favors!” (Luke 2:14).

The crowd welcoming Jesus to Jerusalem praised God for His peace and glory. The peace and glory of God who reigns in heaven. The peace between God and humankind made possible by the Prince of Peace. The people offered praise for Jesus because they believed He was the Messiah.

Believers rightly worship Jesus for the works of God we have seen. Jesus’ miracles today continues to transform sinners into saints. Believers have every reason to enjoy His work and join in the chorus of praise for the One who loves us and gave Himself for us.

Interestingly, in verses 39-40 Luke tells us that some of the Pharisees in the crowd admonished Jesus to rebuke His disciples for their worship. They were not merely saying to quiet them, they were demanding that He literally reject their assertions that He was the Messiah King. They believe He is not worthy of their praise. Jesus replies with a paraphrase of Habakkuk 2:11,

“For the stones will cry out from the wall, and the rafters will answer them from the woodwork.”

The Messiah was publicly presenting Himself to the nation, and even inanimate objects would be called upon to testify that He was the Messiah King, He was worthy of praise.

There were those in the crowd who got it and those who did not. What was expressive for some was offensive to others. The Pharisees were seeing the crowds grow in their support of Jesus. They apparently thought Jesus would agree with them that the crowd had gone too far. But Jesus knew what they did not know, though these crowds were now cheering, in a few days, the crowds would be taunting.

Though crowds were saying Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord, by the end of the week the crowds would be shouting Crucify Him. This celebration of adoration would be short-lived. But for the moment, there was praise and adoration for the King entering on a donkey. The road to the cross was always going to be taken by riding a donkey, a sign of humility and obedience. It was not the entrance that was heralded from the mountain tops; it was an entrance that was embraced by those on the side of a road who had open hearts and minds to the Savior riding into town on a donkey.

IV. Jesus Wept

Jesus understood all this, and recognized that, while the crowds were rejoicing now, the same crowd would soon reject Him. Luke 19:41-44 –

When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known on this day, even you, the conditions for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will put up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, and they will level you to the ground, and throw down your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.”

What an amazing contrast there is here between the joyful reception of Jesus by the crowds with our Lord’s tears. They thought they had received Him in a way that was appropriate and fitting; Jesus viewed the event as a disaster, and as leading to disaster, for Jerusalem.

Jerusalem failed to grasp “the things which make for peace.” The majority of the people thought that this peace would be accomplished by a sword, and by force. They supposed that when the Messiah came, He would utilize military might, and that He would throw off the shackles of Rome. When Jesus wept because Jerusalem did not know what would bring about peace, He wept because He knew what lay ahead for this wayward, wrong-thinking nation. Instead of Messiah’s coming bringing about the demise of Rome, the rejection of Jesus as Messiah meant the destruction of Jerusalem, at the hand of Roman soldiers. Jesus therefore spoke of the coming destruction of Jerusalem, which took place in 70 A.D.

It was not by the Messiah’s use of force and power, nor by the death of the Messiah’s enemies that the kingdom was to be brought about, but by the Messiah’s death at the hand of His enemies. It was not triumph which would bring in the kingdom, but the tragedy of the cross. God’s ways are never man’s ways. Man would have brought about the kingdom in many ways, but man would never have conceived of doing so by a cross, by apparent defeat, by the suffering of Messiah Himself, for the sins of His people.

V. Conclusion

The triumphal entry into Jerusalem was not only Jesus’ claim to be Israel’s Messiah, but also a clear declaration of His deity. He was Israel’s Lord. But Jesus is about to be rejected by His own people, handed over to the Gentiles, persecuted, abused, and crucified. To some, it may have seemed that Jesus had failed to militarily declare victory. To others, the cross may have seemed a disaster and a defeat. But just prior to His death, Jesus declared His deity, demonstrated His right to possess, to receive man’s praise, and to determine how the kingdom would be established. Jesus’ death on the cross was not an evidence of Jesus being overrun or overpowered by His opponents, but of His laying down His life voluntarily, for the sins of His people, as God’s means of establishing the kingdom.

We are not like Israel, for if we have truly received Jesus as our Savior, we have also received Him as Lord. We acknowledge Him as the King whose kingdom will soon be established on the earth.

Revelation 19:11-16,

And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many crowns; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written: “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”

Worship the One, the True King, whose Triumphal Entry will usher in His Kingdom for 1000 years.

To God be the Glory.

Amen