Sunday, March 27, 2011

Are We Like Peter? - Mark 14:66-72

Are We Like Peter? - Mark 14:66-72
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 27, 2011 AM

There is a certainty and assurance that true Christians know and reflect in their lives. Others have noted the peace that believers display no matter what occurs in life. During the cold war a KGB agent for the Soviet Union had nearly beaten to death a young Christian woman. He warned her to never be caught again. Her crime was having a Bible study in her home and owning a Bible. Later, she was again caught by the same KGB agent. In disbelief he could not shake the peace that he saw in her face even after she was finally murdered by his squad. It haunted him from that day on. Later, he gave his life to Christ and had to escape Russia himself. How could that lovely young woman continue in her faith even after she was severely beaten and then later die for her belief?

Faced with a similar situation we find Peter not only backtracking away from his friendship with Jesus, he flatly denies he ever knew him! . Are we like Peter? Sadly, far too many of us would have been like Peter and denounced Jesus and our faith. While we need to be careful in equating what Peter does in the courtyard with some of our own actions, his denials can help to encourage us to be the believers Christ desires. Let’s therefore ask and answer the question, “Are we like Peter?”

READ: Mark 14:66-72

My father called it "willful disobedience." He described it as when we knew we were supposed to act in a certain way, but deliberately refused to do so. We knew we were supposed to make our beds before going to school. We were supposed to clean and pick up, wash our face and hands, and brush our teeth before heading off to bed at night. No exceptions. If we deliberately talked back to either of our parents, it was "willful disobedience." We were expected to act with integrity and morality whether our folks were present or not. The same is true for believers and their relationship with the Lord. We are to live our faith! However, we can be just like Peter…

I. When we are disobedient! (Vv. 66-68)

1. Delayed obedience is disobedience! Disobedience can creep into our faith so easily, especially in our day and age where we are constantly bombarded by the world. Peter's actions were no exception. He knew ahead of time that he was going to be faced with the situation of denying his master. He had vehemently proclaimed that he could never do such a thing, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you!” Yet, here we find Peter doing exactly what he said he would never do. “While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him. ‘You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus,’ she said. But he denied it. ‘I don't know or understand what you're talking about,’ he said, and went out into the entryway.” The world always looks “closely” at the actions of believers. Peter chose the easiest path. We should not be too hard on Peter, because he does what many of us do weekly on Monday following Sunday! Far too often we think we will not be held accountable for our actions. Jesus warned, “But I tell you that men will have to give account on the Day of Judgment for every careless word they have spoken.” (Matthew 12:36 NIV) We should be brokenhearted over Peter’s continued denial. “When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, ‘This fellow is one of them.’” What does Peter do? Does he make a stand, does he boldly proclaim his faith in his friend, and does he demand to be held accountable for his witness? Nope. “Again he denied it!” Oh how sad to hear these words from Peter’s lips, and oh how sad to hear our lips make the same mewing sounds of denial through our constant insubordination! Are we like Peter? Yes, when we are disobedient!

EXAMPLE: Dave Branon of RBC Ministries related a story about "A young teen who was constantly getting into trouble always apologized when his parents confronted him. No matter how much he hurt his parents with his previous wrong-doing, he would soon turn around and do something else wrong—knowing he would be forgiven. Finally, his dad took him out to the garage for a talk. Dad picked up a hammer and pounded a nail into the garage wall. Then he gave his son the hammer and told him to pull out the nail. The boy shrugged, grabbed the hammer, and yanked out the nail. "That's like forgiveness, Son. When you do something wrong, it’s like pounding in a nail. Forgiveness is when you pull the nail out.' 'Okay, I get it,' said the boy. 'Now take the hammer and pull out the nail hole,' his dad replied. 'That’s impossible!' the boy said. 'I can’t pull it out.' That's exactly what happens when we knowingly disobey God. We know he will forgive us, but we immediately are disobedient again. Our disobedience leaves spiritual holes in our character until we deliberately decide to be brokenhearted over our sin and not do it again. Are we like Peter? Yes, when we are disobedient.

Getting caught in the act of doing something wrong can be embarrassing. I remember taking glass pop bottles from the back of a store and then cashing them in for money in the front! We soon got caught. What was worse is we had to confess our crime to our folks and repay what we took. I swore I would never ever take anything that did not belong to me ever again. And I have not. I remember my shame. You know, Christians can be just like Peter…

II. When we are ashamed! (Vv. 69-71)

1. Shame comes from being exposed for what we truly are! Here is a horrendous truth: Peter was not ashamed of his actions, he was ashamed of Jesus! Peter did not deny Jesus once, but he did it again, and then “After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, “Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean,” how does he respond? “He began to call down curses on himself, and he swore to them, “I don’t know this man you're talking about.’” Can you imagine being so ashamed of being connected with someone you actually call curses down on yourself? Wow! We allow our own embarrassment of Jesus and fear of what others might actually think when we allow our shame to dictate our actions! We do it when we have the God-given opportunity to share the transforming power of Christ to one in desperate need of a Savior and we look at our feet instead! Now we know that Peter faced imprisonment or death for his testimony of Christ, but we do not. When confronted three times about his friendship, Peter denies his friend. Why would we be so ashamed that we would deny our master so many times in our life? Do we forget so easily the words of Jesus when he warned, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels.”? (Mark 8:38 NIV) Now I know Jesus is specifically talking about the Jewish leadership and those listening to his words at that time. However, when we reject Jesus because of our shame and fear of the world’s contempt we do what Peter did. We are like Peter when we are ashamed of Jesus!

EXAMPLE: The Christian rock group called The Newsboys had a song titled "I'm Not Ashamed." It asked the believer, "What are we sneaking around for? Who are we trying to please? Shrugging off sin, apologizing like we're spreading some kind of disease. I'm saying, 'No way. No way.'" Yet many Christians do exactly what this song implicates. Recently the pastor of a rural United Methodist church in North Carolina wrote a note on his Facebook page supporting a new book by Rob Bell, a prominent young evangelical pastor and heretic. He could not fathom why people got so upset with his unbiblical notion that no one goes to hell. Bell thinks that a belief in hell is "misguided and toxic and ultimately subverts the contagious spread of Jesus' message." His universalism is an old false doctrine and ignores what Jesus said about the subject. Jesus taught, "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell," meaning God himself! (Matthew 10:28 NIV) What a difference there is between the arrogance of some and the humility of Paul who wrote, "I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." (Philippians 1:20-21 NIV) We are like Peter when we are ashamed of Jesus!

What happens when we fail in our faith? Do we simply shrug it off and go on? If we do, we have not taken care of the root of the problem. Far too many Christians today think they are constantly covered by God's grace, even when they sin, and never have to worry about it. Yet we have learned that we will give an account for our ungodly actions. The wonderful truth is that we can escape the accountability of our sin if we are willing to do so! We do not have to be like Peter! Let's ask…

III. What can we do? (V. 72)

1. We need to act before the rooster crows! We find that for Peter, “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 wept because he came to the realization of what he had just done to Jesus. What do we do when we realize we have behaved in the same way? Do we weep over our betrayal of Jesus? Are we brokenhearted over our sin? Paul reminds us, “If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” (2 Timothy 2:12-13 NIV) The key here is if we had rejected Jesus, if we had totally disassociated ourselves from faith in him, we would be lost, however, if we have believed but then falter, praise the Lord, he never disowns us! Peter had not yet placed his faith and trust in Jesus as his Savior and Lord, as he would later when he is confronted by Jesus (John 21:15-19). So, what can we do? 1) We can make sure we have confessed our faith in Christ: Paul related, “That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9 NIV), 2) we can confess our failure and sin: John teaches us that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9 NIV), and 3) we can remain in him: Jesus taught, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” (John 15:4 NIV) Just as Peter denies Jesus three times, he is later restored by Jesus three times and is commanded by Jesus to "Follow me!" (John 21:19) We can be restored as well! What can we do? We can turn to Jesus!

EXAMPLE: Philip Yancey writes that he "used to view the worship service in church as a time for entertainment." He writes that, "Speaking of folks like me, Sören Kierkegaard said that we tend to think of church as a kind of theater: We sit in the audience, attentively watching the actors onstage. If sufficiently entertained, we show our gratitude with applause. Church, though, should be the opposite of the theater. God is the audience for our worship. What matters most takes place within the hearts of the congregation—not onstage. We should leave a worship service asking ourselves not 'What did I get out of it?' but rather 'Was God pleased with what happened?'" I agree and disagree with Yancey. I agree we should always be concerned with what occurs during our worship, but I disagree in that I believe we should also ask, "What did I bring to worship?" Far to often we bring absolutely nothing to worship and expect God to "bless us real good." That is not what worship is about. Worship is all about God and not us! We can bring nothing to worship unless we have first placed our faith and trust in God's One and only Son Jesus. If we are unwilling to invest ourselves in what he did for us, dying on the cross, why should he be glad of our empty worship? What can we do? We can turn to Jesus!

Conclusion:
We are like Peter when we are disobedient, we are like Peter when we are embarrassed of Jesus, and yet God has provided for us! We can accept what Jesus has done for us, confess our sinful condition, and come to Jesus!
----
Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2011 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Trial of Jesus - Mark 14:53-65

The Trial of Jesus - Mark 14:53-65
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 20, 2011 AM

If we are lucky in life we will have the opportunity to meet someone who exemplifies what true heroism means. In a day and age where heroism is often defined by what one suffers through rather than the sacrifice of one’s life for another, we need to take a fresh look. The English word for hero was first used in 1387 and comes from the Greek meaning “protector” or “defender.” Originally, Hero was a priestess of Aphrodite at Sestos a town on Hellespont. She loved a young man named Leander, who lived at Abydos, a town on the Asian side of the channel. They could not marry because Hero was bound by a vow of chastity, and so every night Leander swam from Asia to Europe, guided by a lamp in Hero's tower. One stormy night a wind extinguished the light, and Leander drown. His body was washed ashore beneath Hero's tower; in her grief, she threw herself into the sea. Not exactly what we think of as a heroic tale.

The Canadian Free Press writes that “A series of unpredictable strong earthquakes, including a super-size earthquake and subsequent tsunami, have thrown some of Japan’s nuclear energy plants into a crisis: pumping seawater, venting steam, keeping a lid on a disaster.” Fox News relates that in the midst of this disaster are some brave men. “They are known as the 'Fukushima 50,' the workers who stayed behind at the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in order to prevent a meltdown in Japan." They are unidentified plant engineers who continue to work in dangerous conditions, as hundreds of thousands have evacuated the area, fearing a meltdown. Two of the workers are missing after an explosion and fire at the Unit 4 reactor. Heroes. Here in Mark’s gospel we are shown what true heroism is all about as well. It is found in the trial of Jesus. Let’s see what we can discover for ourselves…

READ: Mark 14:53-65

In a world where we face the high unemployment, large numbers of defaulting mortgages, and seemingly huge natural disasters it may seem as if everything is falling apart at the seams. Some Chicken Little doomsayers are already predicting even more dire consequences because of “super moons” or Aztec calendars. Yet, as we face these trials of life, I am reminded of another trial and the one who went through it all alone. I am reminded of his heroic example. The trial of Jesus teaches us…

I. How to be strong when everything is falling apart around us! (Vv. 53-54)

1. While others run and hide, a hero remains! A hero stays the course he knows he has to in order to fulfill his objective. Jesus does just that. Peter first runs away and then in almost morbid curiosity he stays just within eyesight and hearing of what is occurring. We learn, from John’s account he is allowed to do so because Peter stays with John. There are always those who want to be a hero or who think they could be a hero when the need arises, but when put to the test of finding out if they are made of the same metal heroes are forged from, they retreat. As they take “Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests, elders and teachers of the law… Peter followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. There he sat with the guards and warmed himself at the fire.” While Peter skulks and warms himself, Jesus goes quietly, not knowing what exactly will happen to him, he stays the course set out for him. How many of us could say we would do the same in his situation? We are more like Peter than we would want to admit. We watch warming ourselves on the sidelines as others are coldly betrayed, falsely accused, and convicted. Are we cowardly Peters? Interestingly, while Paul would often write about his own past denial of Jesus, Peter never even alludes to it. Only John writes about how Peter is restored. Later, we will learn that in the midst of Peter’s defiance, “The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter.” How sad. I would like to think that perhaps, Jesus remembered the comforting words of the Psalmist which states, “From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe.” (Psalms 61:2-3 NIV) Jesus knew he was in his Father’s hands. Later, while dying on the cross he would cry out, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:46) No one could snatch him from them! That is what true heroes do. They remain strong in God when everyone and everything else does not. It is how God’s hero is to respond! Jesus teaches us how to be strong when everything is falling apart around us.

EXAMPLE: Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations” (Ps. 46:10). These words from a song sung long ago at the temple in Jerusalem remind us of what we should do during a personal trial—be still and know God! Knowing God is often found in our willingness to simply be quiet and allow God to speak to us. In that moment when Jesus is being falsely accused he could have ranted, raved, and gotten angry. He could have pointed to all the good things he had done in their midst and in spite of their unbelief. He could have reminded them of his miraculous birth, how he raised the dead, caused the blind to see, and feed thousands with a few fish and loaves of bread. Instead we find Jesus quiet and calm. He is still. He is knowing God even in the midst of his final moments of life here on this earth. Jesus teaches us how to be strong when everything is falling apart around us.

Some people simply cannot seem to simply shut up. Often, rather than face the music there are those who think they have to justify themselves. Why is that? We live in a society that lives by the false assumption that everyone needs to be heard. It is not true! The sad truth is not everyone has something worthwhile to say! In fact, we discover that the trial of Jesus teaches us…

II. How to be like Jesus when we are falsely accused! (Vv. 55-59)

1. He declares himself guilty who justifies himself before accusation! We all like to be liked, but that is unrealistic in life. Not everyone will like you. A hero does not cater to guilt. We may have experienced or we will experience others treating us unfairly. Injustice in life happens! How would you feel if you were illegally drug into court and all those who testify about you, falsely accuse you under oath? We find that “The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any.” Sadly, those who hated Jesus did so for no reason! Oh they thought they had good reason and justified it by telling one another, “Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” (John 11:47-48) They were only concerned for their position and power! We find that, “Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree.” Under Jewish law they needed several witnesses to agree precisely about what they actually saw or heard. When that did not happen, “Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: “We heard him say” is their justification. When folks cannot find something to hang him with, they do what many deceitful people do: They twist the truth! Some of them had probably been present when Jesus’ accusers had demanded a miracle from him. Jesus told them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” (John 2:19) Of course they deliberately twist Jesus' words because “the temple he had spoken of was his body.” (John 2:21) They deceitfully declare, “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this man-made temple and in three days will build another, not made by man!’” While their accusations were not completely false, they were not completely true either. Lies are like that. God hates liars. In fact, God equates it with false worship of one’s self. Proverbs reminds us, “What matters most is loyalty. It's better to be poor than to be a liar.” (Proverbs 19:22 CEV) Liars are like idol worshippers because they love their lie more than they love God! In fact, we are reminded that one who worships idols, “feeds on ashes, a deluded heart misleads him; he cannot save himself, or say, ‘Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?’” (Isaiah 44:20 NIV) We all like to be liked, and some of us will lie in order to be liked! Jesus had taught that “everyone who lives by the truth will come to the light, because they want others to know that God is really the one doing what they do.” (John 3:21) Mark’s account teaches us how to be like Jesus when we are falsely accused! It is how God’s hero responds! He lets the truth speak for him.

EXAMPLE: In 1931, the city of Hayward, California, built its first permanent city hall building. Costing $100,000 at the time, the structure with its square Corinthian columns and Roman arch entry was considered a marvel. There was only one problem—it was built on the Hayward Fault and is gradually splitting in two. In 1989, an earthquake forced its closure, and it became off limits to occupants. Sadly, far too many Christians have fault lines too! They blame everyone else for their problems! When Christians are unwilling to recognize their own faults, they sin! Their lives in Christ are soon split apart because you cannot serve two masters; you will hate the one and love the other! However, if we live in the truth, we have nothing to fear. Mark’s account teaches us how to be like Jesus when we are falsely accused!

Far too often adults act like children when confronted with the truth of their cover up. I have found it interesting to listen to how many ways politicians, movie stars, or those simply caught lying can justify their behavior: “I misspoke.” “I was in a different place then.” “I have since made self-adjustments that will better induce a more positive response in the future.” Wow. During Jesus’ trial we discover what heroism is all about and how it answers unfair accusers. The trial of Jesus teaches us…

III. How we are to respond to injustice! (Vv. 60-65)

1. Stand up, speak up, shut up, and sit down! When a lie is exposed for what it truly is, a lie, the liar usually responds only in one way: They get angry. And their anger is usually directed at the person who has exposed their lie. A hero always speaks the truth. When Jesus allows the truth of his life and the treachery of his accusers made public, the High Priest cannot take it anymore. He “stood up in the council and asked Jesus, ‘Why don't you say something in your own defense? Don't you hear the charges they are making against you?’” In the Greek his question expects an answer: “You are going to answer your accusers, aren’t you?” The second question expected an explanation: “What is the meaning of the charges these witnesses are making against you?” However, one thing we need to understand throughout Mark’s account is how Jesus responded to the injustice being done to him: “Jesus kept quiet and did not say a word.” Isaiah reminds us that, “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7 NIV) The truth needs no explanation. It always exposes the lie. Infuriated, and I believe prompted by the Chief Liar himself, the Devil, “The high priest asked him another question: ‘Are you the Messiah, the Son of the glorious God?’” Jesus remained silent until that point. Jesus answers the only way he can. “Yes, I am!” He is the great “I AM!” He is God in human flesh! While others testified with lies, Jesus gives testimony to the truth. He continues by prophesying to the ultimate destruction of Israel and the establishment of his eternal kingdom: “Soon you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right side of God All-Powerful, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” The High Priest is confronted by the real High Priest. He finally begins to comprehend what Jesus is saying and yet he does not understand, for if he did he would not have immediately “ripped his robe apart and shouted, ‘Why do we need more witnesses? You heard him claim to be God! What is your decision?” And like the Satan’s own minions, “They all agreed that he should be put to death.” How wonderful to see and hear Jesus in the midst of this unholy tumult. Jesus remains quiet until the truth needs to be spoken and only then does he answer his accusers. His words are brief, succinct, and to the heart of the issue. He did not embellish nor justify his actions. That’s how God’s hero responds! Jesus’ example is how we are to respond to injustice.

EXAMPLE: I would not want to be an umpire, especially for some of the softball games I have been to. I heard the true story of one umpire at a girl’s softball game. Throughout several innings he had quietly stood behind home plate. He had heard a player’s mother start chanting: “We want a new ump! We want a new ump!” Soon, other parents took up the chant. It grew louder and louder. The ump smiled, remained quiet until he finally turned toward the crowd and hollered, “I want new parents! I want new parents!” The heckling slowly died away and the ump turned back and called the rest of the game without incident. We find Jesus showing us the same kind of example of how we are to respond to injustice.

Conclusion:
The trial of Jesus teaches us several truths: How to be strong when everything is falling apart around us! How to be like Jesus when we are falsely accused! And, how we are to respond to injustice! Now, when you are faced with a trial in life, how will you respond?
----
Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2011 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

When We Abandon Jesus - Mark 14:42-52

When We Abandon Jesus - Mark 14:42-52
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 13, 2011 AM

It was a warm spring day and my parents had met some friends as we walked downtown. My father had picked me up and sat me on the hood of a car parked nearby. As they stood around talking, I fell fast asleep. I remember waking up and realizing that I was all alone. My parents and siblings were nowhere to be seen. I did the natural thing any four-year-old would do, I began to cry. A policeman was nearby and came over just as my father came running around the corner. They had thought I was still with them, forgetting that they had placed me on the hood of the car to keep me safe. Being abandoned as a preschooler is a frightening thing.

Can you imagine being abandoned by your closest friends during a time of your greatest trial? Here, in Mark’s gospel Jesus finds himself in just such a situation. He is abandoned by his disciples. Let’s take a look at what occurs so that we can learn what happens when we abandon Jesus…

READ: Mark 14:42-52

The term, “fair-weather friends” means that our friendship lasts only as long as there are no storm clouds in our lives. We find the very same thing occurring in our relationship with Jesus. In fact, we find that his own disciples abandon him when he needed them most. We abandon Jesus when…

I. We kiss him on Sunday, but betray him on Monday! (Vv. 42-46)

1. “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matthew 5:39 NIV) We can kiss Jesus on one cheek and slap him on the other! Betrayal takes many forms: A whispered word, a bribe, turned confidence, or even a kiss. Can you imagine giving a kiss to someone and using it to pinpoint the one you want to betray? Judas does. We wonder why because many of the Jewish leadership had seen Jesus and they had sent others to debate and spy on him. There were many who knew him by sight. Yet we find that the prearranged signal would be Judas’ kiss. A kiss was used to signify difference to a leader or, in this case, a rabbi teacher whom one respected. Judas uses a kiss to try and force the hand of Jesus but to also betray him into the hands of Jesus’ enemies. “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.” Recently, there was a TV program that related they thought Judas has received unfair treatment by New Testament authors. They believe that Judas was in reality just trying to fight for the freedom of his people. It is an old excuse for Judas’ actions. The program completely neglected the words of Jesus himself, historical facts recorded in all the gospel narratives and some of the epistles. Judas may not have wanted the death of Jesus, but Judas was blinded by what he wanted from Jesus. We find that “Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, ‘Rabbi!’ and kissed him.” And here is a truth we should not ignore: We do the very same thing when we “kiss” Jesus on one cheek and yet strike him on another. Jesus told his disciples to “turn the other cheek” when they were wronged, but here he is kissed by his betrayer on the cheek he turns to him. We are so willing to kiss Jesus and say we ‘believe” in him and yet we are so quick to betray him with our attitudes and actions. We desire Jesus to be what we want him to be just as Judas did. We kiss him with songs of praise yet our hearts are far from him. We make noises of following him wherever he leads but when we are led to share our faith, give, or serve – we simply turn away. Like Judas the betrayer, we would rather have a Jesus genie in a bottle than a Savior who desires all of us. We abandon Jesus when we kiss him on Sunday, but betray him on Monday.

EXAMPLE: National Geographic in a display of deliberate animosity toward Christianity did a bias program concerning the Gnostic gospel of Judas. They incorrectly translated it as referring to Judas as a self-sacrificing hero, the real disciple Jesus loved, and was betrayed by the jealous disciples. Yet, when major Greek translators, biblical scholars, and other academics got a closer look at the rediscovered manuscript it became evident that this is not what it said at all. National Geographic was showing their bigotry. Why would a major organization do such a thing? I believe it was another misguided attempt to chip away at Christianity’s integrity. Sadly, National Geographic and other biased organizations do not have to chip away at Christianity’s integrity; Christians do that all by themselves! Every time Christians treat one another just as the world treats its own, we betray Jesus. Every time we live for the world instead of for the Lord, we betray Jesus. We abandon Jesus when we kiss him on Sunday, but betray him on Monday!

The Bible warns us to, “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” (Psalms 2:12 NIV) It teaches us to be aware of what Scripture teaches. We abandon Jesus when…

II. We live by the wrong kind of sword! (Vv. 47-49)

1. “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12 NIV) A real revolution begins in the human heart! There are people in our day who say Jesus was a revolutionary in the strictest sense of the word. He was not. This is nothing new. We discover his own disciples may have thought he was as well, hence we find Peter, who was the brash person “standing near” who “drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.” Peter brandished a weapon to take up arms in Jesus' rebellion. Jesus rebukes Peter by telling him, “Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52 NIV) Curiously, Jesus earlier teaches about himself, "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword." (Matthew 10:34 NIV) Jesus did not mean it as a form of armed revolution. If one reads the verse in context, you discover very quickly Jesus meant that he came to bring the sword of truth, the gospel message, which would turn family members against one another and such. (Matthew 10:32-38) We see him bluntly asking his captors, “Am I leading a rebellion that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me?” Of course he was not leading any such thing. He tells them, “Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me.” Yet, there are still those who desire Jesus to be a revolutionary to bring freedom for the oppressed masses, but Jesus did not come for that purpose. He came to seek and save the lost. He did so by dying on a cross as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. Those who long for social justice through Jesus are mistaken. They love to quote him saying, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed,” but leave out the final part that is so important: “to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.” (Luke 4:18-19 NIV) The sword Jesus brought was the gospel of peace. Now, dear child of God let me ask you: "Do you live by the sword?" The sword Jesus wants his followers to wield has always been the gospel. We abandon Jesus when we live by the wrong kind of sword!

EXAMPLE: There is just one problem with the scenario of Jesus being a bandolier-wielding guerilla camouflaged revolutionary -- he did not advocate living or dying by use of force or terrorism. No one can be forced in to believing in Jesus and Jesus will not force himself on anyone who does not want to believe in him. Oh sure Jesus can and will open the eyes of those who are in sin through the power of the Holy Spirit, but he does not pry open your eyes, duck tape them, and then drag you down the aisle kicking and screaming to accept him. Jesus stood before Pilate and told him, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.” (John 18:36 NIV) Jesus went around telling folks about the kingdom of God and how to enter into it. Jesus was not leading a political social economic rebellion; rather his army was to be about leading people to faith in him. We abandon Jesus when we live by the wrong kind of sword!

God promised his people that, “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 31:8 NIV) What a wonderful truth and promise from God! We may abandon Jesus, however, when…

III. We flee, Jesus always remains! (Vv. 50-52)

1. “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20b) Jesus was never alone! I believe this is why he remains unshakable. While “everyone deserted him and fled,” again, we hear Jesus calmly asking his captors, “Am I leading a rebellion that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me?” Jesus faces his armed opponents completely unarmed. The only weapon he has is his Heavenly Father, who was right there with him. They come to arrest him by the cover of darkness, while “every day” Jesus had been right there out in the open, “teaching in the temple courts.” However, Jesus knew why this was happening: “the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” Jesus’ chosen compatriots fled into the darkness. They were fishermen, a tax collector and one zealot, and were ill prepared to thwart a cadre of armed guards. I read once that perhaps this is the way God protected the early church. That if they had stayed, the church would have been captured and killed along with its founder. Some say this is why Jesus had Peter put away his sword. Rather, I think it follows human nature. None of the disciples were yet saved by faith. The sacrificial act had not yet occurred. We would like to think, as Peter proudly proclaimed, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!” Yet, we are more like Peter in action rather than in word. We would do well to listen for the sound of a rooster crowing in the background. While the Light of the world is led away, the disciples flee into the darkness. And this is where many of us find ourselves – fleeing Jesus when confronted by the world. We throw off our white linen robes and run “naked” to the darkness rather than stay with the Light. The wonderful truth is that Jesus knew they would run just as he knows we will. However, this is why his grace is sufficient for us, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16 NIV) When we flee, Jesus remains. Isn’t that great? He remained so that “the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” When we flee, Jesus always remains!

EXAMPLE: There is an old joke I first heard when I was in grade school, so this should tell you how old it is, about the Lone Ranger and his sidekick Tonto. They are slowly creeping over a ridge, looking for a band of Indians in order to warn the US 7th Cavalry. They discover that the Indians have caught up to the troops and are engaging them in a fierce battle at the Little Big Horn. The Lone Ranger turns to Tonto and says, “We have to get down there and help!” Tonto looks blandly back at the Lone Ranger and says, “What do you mean ‘we’ white man?” Yes, I know it is kind of corny but it depicts quite well what happens when you think you have help but are all of a sudden left alone, facing insurmountable odds. Jesus would understand completely. Yet, in his last moments we discover a wonderful truth: We may abandon Jesus, however, when we flee, Jesus always remains!

Conclusion:

We abandon Jesus when we kiss him on Sunday, but betray him on Monday. We abandon Jesus when we live by the wrong kind of sword! We may abandon Jesus, however, when we flee, Jesus always remains!
----
Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2011 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

When We Fail at Prayer - Mark 14:32-41

When We Fail at Prayer - Mark 14:32-41
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 6, 2011 AM

Why is the Christian church a mere shadow of what it once was? Some think it is because we do not allow the Spirit of God to work. Others say we are not reaching out enough, witnessing about our faith here at home. While others believe that it is because the church has lost the aspect of being set apart from the rest of the world and has lost its holiness. I believe all of these have some validity, but at its core I believe that all of these things can be reduced to the fact that the church no longer prays as it should. A weak Christian faith or a weak Christian church is the result of when we fail at prayer.

Here in Mark’s gospel we find Jesus during the last few hours of his life. As each moment draws him closer to his final act of sacrifice, we discover some wonderful truths for our lives. And there is no greater truth than the power of prayer. From when his own disciples asked him to teach them how to pray, to the last moments of his life we discover Jesus teaching over and over the importance of prayer. Why is it if Jesus displayed prayer in his own life and taught the importance prayer in the lives of his followers that we so often fail at prayer? Let’s find out why this morning…

READ: Mark 14:32-41

Over and over we find the writers of the New Testament asking their friends, the churches, and fellow believers to pray for them. Why? They learned this lesson from the Lord himself. As we join Jesus and his disciples in the garden, we learn that…

I. We fail at prayer when we do not ask others to join us! (Vv. 32-34)

1. There is strength in numbers! Here we find the few remaining moments of Jesus’ life and he has a simple request for his disciples: “Sit here while I pray.” All Jesus desires is that they would be steadfast, remain where they were, and stay awake while he prayed. He needed the assurance of his fellows in faith. This brings me to several thoughts: How often do we ask others to sit with us during our worst trials? How often do we sit with others when they ask us to? And finally, why would we want our brothers and sisters in Christ to do such a thing? I have learned that if Jesus said it, wanted it, or taught it we should listen closely to what he asks, wants, and teaches. If Jesus asked his own close disciples sit with him shouldn’t we do the same when we are stressed or facing trials? The answer is, “Yes.” It reassures us that we are not alone. It strengthens us in knowing others care. And it shows the importance of the body of Christ encouraging one another as long as it is called today. We should ask, as Jesus did, our fellows in faith to “sit” a while and pray. He went to his best friends and asked them to walk with him in prayer. He knew he needed the closeness of their presence but he also needed them to, “Stay here and keep watch.” What did Jesus need them to “keep watch” for? Certainly it was not for the Roman soldiers, the disciples were no match for them. It would not have been to watch for those who sought to kill Jesus they too would have had temple guards with them. I believe Jesus wanted them to stay and keep watch for their added spiritual assistance and strength. Jesus knew we easily fall prey to Satan’s schemes when we do not ask for help. And when faced with a severe trial, as Jesus was he was easy prey for the spiritual attacks Satan would begin to do in this situation. Jesus could not afford to face the next few hours alone. He needed the support and prayers of those he was closest to. The same is true for us. We need to ask another to sit and join us in our moment of trial because if Jesus knew there is strength in numbers how foolish are we when we do not depend on those we are supposed to. We fail at prayer when we do not ask others to join us!

EXAMPLE: Christians can be like armadillos. When faced with danger these little animals curl up into a tight ball. They have poor eyesight but great hearing and wait for danger to pass before uncurling themselves. We often want to curl up into a tight little ball and shut out the rest of the world when we are going through stress or the trials of the moment. It is a natural armadillo/human response. We think it protects us from getting hurt physically or emotionally, but this is not what the believer is to do. We are to seek out our fellows in Christ and ask them to “sit” with us while we pray. And if we are the one being asked to do such a thing, we are to sit quietly and pray for the one who requested us to sit with them through their trial. We are comforted knowing that where two or more are gathered in his name, he is right there in the body of his church. It is there we find our strength for the day, in him, with his body of believers, as we sit together and pray. You may be the one who needs to “uncurl” or you may be asked to sit a while. Don’t be an armadillo ask another believer, “Sit here while I pray.” We fail at prayer when we do not ask others to join us!

Knowing and doing the will of God should be the greatest goal of the believer. We know God’s will through the power of the Holy Spirit because of our circumstances, through our church, through Scripture, and our prayer. As we join Jesus and his disciples in the garden, we learn that…

II. We fail at prayer when we do not openly seek God’s will! (Vv. 35-36)

1. Our will is not necessarily God’s will! Here is one of the most poignant moments in all of history. Jesus is going to be betrayed, taken by armed guard, tried and convicted, and brutalized beyond human comprehension simply because of what he preached and did. Jesus knew that his time on this earth was rapidly coming to a close. Jesus knew God had plans for the accomplishment of his will for his life. Jesus knew what he would go through in order to finish the plan of God. Does Jesus ask, “Why me?” No. Does he whine about the unfairness of it all? No. Does he begin to argue with God about the plan already laid out for him? Again, the answer is “no.” Now least you argue that Jesus was God in human flesh, and as such he could endure it, never forget what he willingly laid aside to do so. (Philippians 2:6-8) Instead we find Jesus going to the Father in prayer. He comes before the throne of God asking, “Abba, Father, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” He goes to the One who would know what to do, and the One he could rely on the most. His “Abba”, literally his “Papa” God! We are to look to see where God is working and join him there. This is what Jesus was doing. He knew everything is possible with God, but Jesus also knew God’s will had to be done. When Jesus prays, “Yet not what I will, but what you will,” he was not making God the scapegoat for what happened next in his life. Nor was Jesus asking for a way out, he was asking that God’s will be done no matter how he felt. Jesus praying that “if possible the hour might pass from him,” was a request to be strengthened in what was about to occur. Jesus desired God’s will be done no matter what “cup” he had to drink from or face in life. Do you ask for his will to be done no matter how you feel about the outcome or the situation you are in? Be careful what you reply, because God knows if you are telling the truth. Never be afraid to give God your will and join him in his. We fail at prayer when we do not openly seek God’s will!

EXAMPLE: How sad to realize that Christians have often taken this prayer of Jesus and used it as their own escape clause. Here’s what I mean: I have heard Christians end their prayers, they already know the answer to, with the formula, “Thy will be done,” thinking they have just placed themselves into a righteous recipe of disguising their true motivation. They tacitly think they will somehow gain God’s approval or have him acquiesce to their will. Jesus was not trying to manipulate God’s plan. Nor was he trying to justify his own actions. All Jesus desired in life was to be completely in the will of God. As sinful humans we often have a hard time with this concept and struggle with it constantly. After all, shouldn’t God desire for our lives be what we desire for our lives? Of course the answer here is, “No.” We can only mean “Thy will be done,” if we have completely given God permission to do whatever he sees fit in our lives. That means our submission and willingness to be proven by his hand. Otherwise we do not mean what we are praying, and God knows it. God desires all of us. We fail at prayer when we do not openly seek God’s will!

Laziness comes easily to the American church today. We willingly allow others to do the heavy lifting we are commanded to do. We do not want to be bothered with serving, witnessing, giving, or any of the other things we are commanded to do as Christians. In fact, we allow others to pray for us and if we do pray it is usually done in a minute to win it scenario as we are driving to work! We are literally spiritually asleep at the wheel. As we join Jesus and his disciples in the garden, we learn that…

III. We fail at prayer when we fall asleep! (Vv. 37-41)

1. A little sleep in pray can lead to spiritual death in life! Mark’s narrative shifts from Jesus’ prayer, to the disciples’ inability to stay awake. After asking them to “keep watch” he returns and finds them sleeping! Can you believe it? Interestingly, Jesus addresses Peter with his old name of “Simon.” Perhaps suggesting Peter had slipped back into his old nature. Sadly, Jesus asks him, “Are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour?” No great life was ever lived for God nor any great thing ever attempted for God, that has not been first been bathed in fervent prayer. All Jesus desired is that they pray with him for an hour. One simple hour of prayer. In our day, we think we have prayed up a storm if we pray for more than five minutes. Jesus knew that prayer is the lifeline of the Christian experience. He needed his disciples to stay awake and pray for him. So, “Once more he went away and prayed the same thing.” However, before leaving to pray by himself, Jesus admonishes them to “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” Sin is always so close. And we often allow any little thing to pull us away from doing what we know we should do. We often say we will pray for another but how often do we actually follow through? “The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” And in fact, we find that Jesus returns a second time and “he again found them sleeping.” Now certainly “their eyes were heavy” from being up most of the night, but we discover they were ashamed because, “They did not know what to say to him.” What could they say? Yet, again, “Returning the third time, he said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and resting?’” They had actually fallen asleep a third time! Jesus’ time is done and it is now time for God’s plan to be accomplished. He no longer desires to hear any excuses, so he declares, “Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.” Interestingly, three times Peter failed to watch and pray; three times he would fall into temptation and disown Jesus. This warning applies to all believers to stay awake and pray, for all are susceptible to spiritual failure. We fail at prayer when we fall asleep!

EXAMPLE: Far too many Christians are relying on emotions or feelings rather than their actual walk with Christ. The reason is simple: They do not spend time with Christ in order to know what God’s will is. When believers rely on emotions or feelings, sin crouches at the door. In fact, I have heard believers use Jesus’ words to the disciples to excuse their ungodly actions. They flippantly respond, after being caught in their transgressions, “The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” God did not mean for us to use his words as a means of escaping our spiritual responsibilities nor as an excuse for our sin. When we fail to go to God in prayer, we are doing the very thing that Peter and the disciples did that evening when Jesus asked them to stay awake and pray. We betray a trust God has given us to depend on him. We also betray our walk with him, the relationship Jesus established through his death, burial, and resurrection. The reason our body is weak is because our spirit truly is not very willing. We fail at prayer when we fall asleep!

Conclusion:

We fail at prayer when we do not ask others to join us, we fail at prayer when we do not openly seek God’s will, and we fail at prayer when we fall asleep. Have you failed at prayer?
----
Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2011 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.