April 21, 2014

Overcoming Obstacles-Peter and Judas

We are in a message series looking at some common obstacles that get in the way and keep us from being what God has called us to be.  We are doing this by looking at the lives of some of the people the Bible’s. 

One of the biggest obstacles you and I will face in our lives is How do we handle, how do we recover from failure? Whether our failure is the result of our sin, a mistakes, or it is just things not ending the way want…failure is not easy. But as Mythbusters says, “Failure is always an option!” 

Failure is a part of life…we are not going to succeed at everything. In fact, some of our greatest lessons can be learned because we fail.

One writer simply says, “If you aren’t making mistakes, then you aren’t doing anything!” 

To try, to push forward, to attempt something new, to accomplish a difficult goal…all will have failure along the way. And since failure is going to happen…we must be prepared for it when it does. We have to know how to handle it. We have o prepare ourselves psychologically.

One of my favorite quotes is from Theodore Roosevelt. He says, “It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes short again and again, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause, who at best knows achievement and who at the worst if he fails at least fails while daring greatly so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat." 

During this time of year two men serve as prime examples of failure…Peter…he constantly stuck his foot in his mouth…said the wrong thing…pulled his sword and almost started a war… but those were nothing compared to what happened the night Jesus was arrested. Three times Peter denies even knowing the man whom he had followed and professed just a few hours earlier to defend to the death.

The other man hung in the shadows for most of Jesus’ ministry. His name is synonymous with traitor. For a few silver coins, the price of a slave sold at market, Judas Iscariot betrays Jesus into the hands of the authorities who will push for his execution. 

Both these men’s stories intertwine in the pages of Matthew 26 and 27. Each failed deeply, but it is how they handled their failure that made all the difference in the outcome…

Let’s start with Judas…

Matthew 26:14-16, 
“Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.”
Matthew 26:47-50, 
“While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.” Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him.
Jesus replied, “Do what you came for, friend.”
Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him.
Matthew 27:1-5
Very early in the morning the leading priests and the elders of the people met again to lay plans for putting Jesus to death. Then they bound him, led him away, and took him to Pilate, the Roman governor.
When Judas, who had betrayed him, realized that Jesus had been condemned to die, he was filled with remorse. So he took the thirty pieces of silver back to the leading priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he declared, “for I have betrayed an innocent man.”
“What do we care?” they retorted. “That’s your problem.”
Then Judas threw the silver coins down in the Temple and went out and hanged himself.
No one is sure why Judas did what he did. He wasn’t an honest person, as John tells us, he was the treasurer but helped himself to the money that was supposed to help the poor. But here in Mathew we see a man who is trying to force Jesus’ hand…he is looking to push Jesus into taking a stand, declaring war on the Roman Empire, call everyone to arms, and become the Kingly Messiah that would make Israel free from its oppressors.

But when Judas saw his plan backfire…he was overcome with grief. His purpose was not to see Jesus crucified…this was not what he wanted to happen…

The grief and pain of his failure and sin was overwhelming, and like so many even today, he saw suicide as his only escape. He couldn’t see a way out of the pain…It drove him to hopelessness…he couldn’t see forgiveness of any kind…what he had done was not unforgivable…His failure literally became fatal.

Peter’s failure was just as bad in many ways. I think that is why the writer of Matthew links the stories in these two chapters…Peter then Judas then Peter then Judas. They both fail the man they have been following and calling their teacher, and rabbi.

Matthew 26:69-75
Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said.
But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. 
Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.”
He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!” 
After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.” 
Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!”
Immediately a rooster crowed. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.
Peter also knew he had failed. Just a few hours earlier, Jesus told him, ““This very night you will all fall away on account of me…” and Peter swore he would never turn on Jesus! “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.”
And now…with the actual possibility that he too could be killed just for being with Jesus…Peter moves into self-protective mode. Deny, Deny, Deny…I don’t know this man. I don’t know Jesus!

Peter was known for sticking his foot in his mouth and making bold claims, but I wouldn’t have predicted this…

Just as a side note: one of things that helps me see the biblical account as having integrity is stuff like this…Peter goes on to be one of the key foundational leaders of the Early Church and they are more than willing to air the dirty laundry of his failure.  

For some reason Peter held on…his story doesn’t end the way Judas’ story ends.

Following the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Gospel of John gives us this amazing story about Jesus and Peter…

John 21:15-19
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” 
Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” 
The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 

Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

So often on Easter Sunday morning Pastors give a long list of reasons as to why the resurrection is true…why it should be believed…And there are some great resources that do that…Lee Strobel…William Lane Craig…But this morning I don’t want us to focus on the proofs and evidence demonstrating that a resurrection took place. I want you to know that Peter’s end is possible for us because a resurrection did take place. Judas’ story could have ended the same way I believe…

The reason our failures and sin do not have to end the way Judas’ ended is because of the power of the resurrection. Our failure, our mistakes, our sins…can turn to hopelessness if we do not understand the power that Jesus’ resurrection offers us.

You know the cross itself looked like a failure. The failure of a man to bring change to the world. The failure of Jesus to be the Messiah everyone hoped he would be. A man put to death in the most brutal way the Roman Empire knew how. Jesus’ life and ministry ended with a crucifixion…with failure.

But that “failure” was turned to victory in the resurrection.

Ephesians 1:19-20 (NLT), 
“I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.”
It is easy for us to focus on our failure...to see all the ways we fall short, the ways we have sinned, the ways we have screwed up...but the resurrection reminds us that even death does not end in defeat. The worst possible thing that could happen to us is not the worst possible thing. 

Even more is the resurrection is not just a reminder that we get to spend all this time with God after we die...the resurrection offers us power to live fully in today...here and now…it calls us and empowers us to make a difference in our world

When we look at this story of Peter and Jesus we discover

We are offered forgiveness.
No matter how bad the offense…no matter how bad the sin…so matter how far away from God we feel we are offered forgiveness. His love for us is beyond measure…So often we get this view of an angry God who doesn’t want to heal, but sends Jesus to the Cross to take our punishment.  That is not the picture offered at all. Jesus reveals the heart of God and that is a heart of forgiveness.

Three times Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me?” Many believe that each one reflects the 3 acts of Peter’s denial, and in each one…Jesus is offering forgiveness!

I found this clip and knew I needed to show it…watch the power of forgiveness in action…

Our sin and failure is like a noose around our necks… a death sentence…but Jesus steps up and offers to remove the noose from our neck and give us this life-giving forgiveness.

And when Jesus offers us forgiveness

We are offered a future.
After Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me?” He then told Peter, “Feed my sheep.” 

This isn’t a promise that we will never fail again…that from now on we will get everything right…No…Jesus says once we receive forgiveness he wants to give us meaning and purpose by giving us a responsibility. 

For Peter it meant leading the Early Church. He became its first pastor. 

When God forgives us He also calls us…he has a purpose…a responsibility for each and everyone of us. He knows we will falter and fail…there will be times when we have to resist sin and ask forgiveness for our sins, but Jesus says, “Follow me!” 

That is what makes all the difference…the direction of our movement…Do we get up when we fall down? Do we keep following Jesus when we get back up?

When you fail do you lay there and wallow in how bad you performed? Do think about all the ways you SHOULD have done better? COULD have done better? 

The offer of Forgiveness and a Future says it doesn’t matter what you should have done and could have done…from now on Follow Me! 

I have failed at a lot of things in my life. I have made some bad mistakes. Some of my failures were caused by bad decisions. Others were the results of deliberate sins I committed. Some were just the fact that things did not turn out the way I wanted.

The resurrection reminds us that our failures…whether in spiritual lives or in any other area of life…our failures do not have to have the last word.

It is easy in our culture to ignore the spiritual side of our lives…but how bad it must be to get to the end of this whole thing and realize we have neglected…we have failed…to recognize the most important aspect of our existence. 

Jesus’ resurrection tells us that not only can we be forgiven and have a relationship with God, but you and I have a calling and purpose in life that is bigger than just having a good job and a nice family.

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