February 2, 2020
Over the past several weeks, we've covered the arrest and the trial of Jesus. We ended last week looking at the rejection of Jesus, and why people would do that. Some people reject the change Jesus brings to our lives. We left off with a little homework. It was set up with this observation:
If I'm going to grow, then I have to embrace the change Jesus brings to my life.
I invited you to think of three things God wanted you to change about your life. Not things you wanted to change about other people. But yourself. Maybe it was a habit. Maybe it was an attitude. Maybe it was your job or a toxic relationship you needed to let go of. Maybe it was a new, healthy habit God was nudging you to develop. Maybe it was that sin you were holding on to that's not hurting anyone, and became like a pet. A pet sin. Maybe you've spread yourself too thin and you needed to cut back. I asked you to think of three things God wanted you to change in your life.
If you took that challenge, you were probably surprised at the great sense of joy it brought to your life. You saw what God was up to in your life.
In chapter 18, we've seen Jesus on trial. He appeared before the religious authorities. He appeared before Pilate, the political authority. Finally, in the midst of those two trials, Jesus appeared before Peter.
A subtle sense of a trial happened with Peter. In the garden we saw Peter defending Jesus. He cut off a guy's ear. He was surrounded Roman soldiers. And he drew his sword to attack them. Not the brightest move recorded in the Bible. But there was a sense of stupid courage in it. Peter was willing to risk something horrible in order to defend Jesus.
Something happened, though, on the way from the garden to the trial. As Peter walked into a courtyard, a servant asked him, "You aren't one of this man's disciples too, are you?" Peter replied, "I am not." What happened to the guy who was willing to attack Roman soldiers?
Here are a few of the things I think happened to Peter. I see them in his life because I've seen them in mine.
First, there was doubt. We know Peter was impetuous. He was the kind of guy who wouldn't always think things through. So, in the garden, he acted. After the garden, after seeing the full weight of what was happening, Peter had more time to worry and fret. He disappeared into the crowds after Jesus was arrested. Doubts grew as Peter realized his plans and God's plans didn't match. Has that ever happened to you? What happens when our plans are sidetracked or never materialize? We say things like, "I never thought my life would turn out this way." It happens. Those tough times can mean seasons of doubt or denial.
Second, there was fear. After impulse-fueled boldness, fear crept in. People thought they recognized him. Guilt by association. If that happened to Jesus, what might happen to his followers? Jesus was dragged away. Peter was alone. The fear of the unknown can be a terrible thing.
Third, there was pride. This was revealed in the Upper Room. Peter was confident he would never falter. He assured Jesus he would be the best disciple. He was weakened by pride. He failed to recognize his greatest weakness. We call those blind spots. When Jesus told Peter he was going to deny him three times, Peter denied the denial. He was blind to the weakness of pride. Some of us have probably been there.
So Peter fell. He failed his trial by fire. And if we read his story and don't see ourselves in it, we miss something really important. If you read the story of Peter and say, "I would never do that," you've missed the point. John tells the story to warn us that, given the right circumstances, we could turn our backs on Jesus. Whether doubt or fear or pride, like Peter, we are all capable of saying, "I never knew the man." It's healthy to admit that a possibility - remember, no blind spots - that there's a possibility of losing our grip on faith can keep us from getting to that point in our lives.
The healthy thing to say is, without God, anger could destroy my life. Lust could destroy my life. Envy could destroy my life. The bad things in my life could lead me to stray from Jesus. And without Jesus, and unless we trust him daily, our doubt will grow and we will miss the blessings of walking with him. But when we know our blind spots, and we recognize our weaknesses, we turn to follow Jesus. We don't deny him. Peter teaches us about the dangers of doubt and fear and pride.
Finally, Jesus appeared before Pilate. It was the Roman trial:
So Pilate came out to them and asked, "What charges do you bring against this man?" "If he were not a criminal," they replied, "we would not have handed him over to you." Pilate said, "Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law." "But we have no right to execute anyone," they objected. - John 18:29-31
At this final trial, there was an exchange between Pilate and Jesus that revealed much about who Pilate was and what he knew.
When Pilate asked, "Are you the king of the Jews?" he confessed his knowledge. He knew what people were saying about Jesus. Pilate zeroes right in on what he knew. Later, when Pilate washed his hands, he tried to act like he didn't know anything about anything. But we know that's not true. Pilate knew everything.
When Jesus asked Pilate if he came up with the idea that Jesus was king of the Jews or whether he heard is from somewhere else, Pilate answered with, "Am I a Jew?" In other words, like a good Roman ruler, Pilate hated the Jewish people and wanted as little to do with them as possible.
The third question Pilate asked confessed a weakness. "What is it you have done?"Even though he was the Roman governor, he really didn't know what to do. He struggled for direction.
Finally, when Jesus answered, "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 the truth listens to me," Pilate asked his fourth, and most weasely question, "What is truth?" A man's life hung in the balance, and Pilate played philosophical games.Not only that, but in what Jesus said to Pilate, you can hear him trying to lead Pilate into something deep, something meaningful, into faith. But Pilate was cynical. Pilate wouldn't open himself up to God.
In Jesus' conversation with Pilate, he pushed a crucial pivot point back to
IS HE GOING TO BE MY KING, OR AM I GOING TO LIVE WITH MY CYNICISM THE REST OF MY LIFE?
So, here's where we're at. Remember, throughout chapter 18, Jesus was the one who was kind, gracious, and in charge. Whether it was the Roman army or the temple officials or the Roman governor, Jesus Christ was the one with great power. That's the contrast John wanted us to see.
John pushed the question from the soldiers and the guards and the religious leaders and the political rulers back to us:
Is Jesus Christ the One I'm following or is he the One I'm questioning?
Jesus was on trial. But his trials focused light on the soldiers and the guards and the religious people and the politicians. And John wanted to keep that light on us:
Are we going to trust Jesus?
Are we going to serve Jesus?
Are we going to believe in Jesus even when things aren't going well for us?
What is your verdict? Is Jesus Christ your Lord and Savior? Are you going to trust him with your future? No matter what happens…regardless of what you experience or go through, are you going let him lead you through it? Are you going to trust him to forgive every sin you've ever committed?
Everyone in chapter 18 was given the opportunity to see that Jesus Christ is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. What say you?