A somber yet hopeful message from Acts 4 on how to prepare our hearts and our church for the fact that we may soon face real persecution for our stand for Christ.
A resurrection sermon looking at the witnesses of the resurrection from Acts 1 through 4.
As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness;
I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness.
A Walk of Faith Easter devotional by Dave Bunnell
Oh, how much I look forward to the day when I shed this mortal body, to be clothed in the righteous garment of a glorified body!
I praise God today that He has completely forgiven my sins because of the finished work of Christ on Calvary. Jesus died to save us from our sins forever. But for the time being, our sin nature remains, as we remain in bodies that are marred by it, and prone to sickness and death as a result.
However, as believers, we have nothing to dread in death, because when our bodies die, we will become more alive than we have ever been. The moment we take leave of our earthly bodies we will be present with the Lord. Physical death, for us, will bring to completion our spiritual resurrection.
That’s the great news of Christ’s resurrection for those of us who believe. When this life ends, we will fully experience that for which we were created: Seeing Him face to face, worshiping Him in untainted fellowship, and reflecting His image and likeness in righteousness and holiness. So let us take joy in the secure hope of our resurrection awakening.
Others may look for satisfaction in this temporal life, where it cannot truly be found, but as for me, when I see His face, and awake in His likeness, I will be satisfied.
This is from several years ago, the first Easter sermon I ever did.
Always Too Soon
(To give up on an all-knowing God)
A Walk of Faith Easter sermon outline by Dave Bunnell
Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened.
As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.
He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” They stood still, their faces downcast.
One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
“What things?” he asked.
“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”
He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.
When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.
They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.”
What do you do when things go from bad to worse and your hope that things will ever get better begins to fade, until finally, all hope is lost? Even Christians can sink into depression when our circumstances cause us to lose hope. But the question is, where is God when we feel like we’re walking through the troubles of life alone? Where is He when we had hoped that He would come through for us, but now it looks like He has failed? Is there any hope to be found when we become disillusioned with God?
In Luke 24, we find Jesus’ disciples in such a situation. They had completely lost hope.
The first sign of their discouragment was that they were leaving the city of God. Verse 13 — “Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem.”
One of the first things a Christian who is losing hope will do is depart from God’s presence, or at least try to. The disciples had been all gathered together, and could possibly encourage each other, but these two were leaving their brethren. They were leaving Jerusalem. Just like a Christian who slowly breaks fellowship with the church or stops praying and communing with God through the word when he gives up hope on God.
Their discouragement was also shown in that the prospect of possible good news did not encourage them. Verses 9-11: “When (the women) came back from the tomb, they told all these things (about the resurrection) to the Eleven and to all the others….. But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.”
Have you ever been so down and out that the encouraging words of others didn’t uplift you? Someone says that even though you’re going through tough times, God still cares for you, and to you in that dark moment, the words just sound like nonsense. When we get disillusioned with God, we don’t see things as they really are, so when good news comes, it doesn’t encourage us.
The third sign they had given up hope: it was written all over their faces. Verse 17 — “He asked them, ‘What are you discussing together as you walk along?’ They stood still, their faces downcast.” When we truly give up hope, we lose the ability to hide it with a fake smile anymore. When someone asks what’s on our mind, it will show that our face is downcast.
And Jesus could also see their discouragement in their response to His questions: They thought that God didn’t understand their pain. Verse 18 “One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, ‘Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?’” When someone becomes disillusioned with God, it will show up in statements like that. “God, don’t you understand what’s going on here? It seems so clear to me why I should be upset and angry and depressed. But you, God, seem like just a visitor in my life. If you really had any grasp of what’s going on, you would care, but apparently you don’t.” These are the attitudes we begin to adopt about God when we lose hope in Him.
Why had they lost hope? They tell us why. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place.”
“We had hoped.” We HAD hoped.
That’s the cry of desolation at its darkest point. God, I had hoped you were going to solve my problem. I had hoped you were going to save my marriage. I had hoped you were going to get my child to start walking with you again. I had hoped you would solve my career trouble. I had hoped you would meet my financial need. I had hoped you wouldn’t let my loved one die. I had hoped…. I had hoped… But now all hope is lost. I held on and I persevered as long as I could in faith, but now I’m at the end of the rope. Now I give up. There is no way that You could fix the situation now.
They thought since Jesus had died, and since it had been three days since He was in the tomb, it was time to give up on God. And all hope was lost.
Jesus was about to teach them a lesson that it is very important for us to learn: It is always too soon to give up on God. Because it is never too late for Him to deliver us out of all our troubles.
They had given up just a moment too soon. They thought it was time to throw in the towel. “His death was real — He has been in the tomb for three days and now we don’t even have His body to go look at because it’s gone, the women told us.” They were sure it was time to give up, but they were giving up just one moment too soon. Had they been willing to trust God and hold on a moment longer, all their sorrows would be turned to joy. But they were leaving Jerusalem.
Fortunately, for us, God does not respond to our despair unkindly, even if we, like these two disciples, are rude to Him. He begins working to restore us. Here’s how Jesus worked that out in these disciples lives, and how He also brings us out of despair.
1) He went after them. Verse 15 — “As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them;” They were leaving the city of God, but God wasn’t just going to wait for them to wise up and come back. He went after them. But they were kept from recognizing Him. They thought all hope in Jesus was lost, but in reality, He was alive, and He was right there. When we feel like God has abandoned us, He is right there with us. He will never leave us nor forsake us. He is right there. Since you’re hurting and only looking down, you may not see Him. But He is right there, walking with you through the trial.
2) He let them voice their concerns to Him, and He listened compassionately. He knew why they were upset, but He asked them anyway, so that they could tell Him. Verse 19 “What things” He asked. Then He let them answer and tell about why they had lost hope. Jesus cares for you so much more than you can imagine, and when you hurt, He does want to let you speak to Him about it. Don’t go silent with God when things go wrong; Run to Him, not from Him. He wants to carry your concerns and lovingly help you.
3) He pointed them to the Word. Verse 27: “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” Isn’t that interesting? He could have said, “Look. It’s Me. I’m alive. I’m right here. Be of good cheer.” Instead, He took them to the written word of God. This is a very important lesson. When we’re discouraged, there is one place to turn. Not fifteen. Not five. Not even two, but one. It is the Word of God. It is our one ticket out of despair, because it is the only source of the answer to the question “Why?” It is the only place where we can find out what God is really up to in our lives.
Hearing the word of God is also the only way we can develop faith to believe and not lose hope. So Jesus reveals to them the truth from the Word:
That He had to die for them.
That the scriptures said from the beginning that He would rise again.
That He would accomplish for them something far better than what they were looking for.
We had hoped, they said, that this was the man who would redeem Israel. Jesus showed them from the scriptures that to do so, He had to die for them and rise again.
It wasn’t until after that that they were able to see Him. So it is with you and me. Until you believe in your heart the promises of God’s word, you will not see those promises being kept with your eyes. They couldn’t see the risen Savior with their eyes, until their hearts believed that was God’s plan from hearing the word.
4) He brought them to a point of making a decision. Verse 28: “As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther.” As I see it, there were three options Jesus was giving them at this moment, and because they were encouraged by God’s word, they chose the right one. First option: They could let Jesus walk on and enter their home and remain in despair and unbelief, not knowing that Jesus had already taken away their reason for hopelessness by rising from the dead to conquer sin forever. Second option: They could commit half-heartedly, by walking on further with Him, but not inviting Him into their home. That way, they could hear a little more about the word without having to fully believe and commit themselves to fellowship with Him. But their eyes would not have been opened if they didn’t invite Him in to feed off the bread He offered. Third option: Commit completely to belief in what they were being taught in the word, by inviting Him in to eat with them. That’s what they did. But Jesus made it possible by bringing them to the point that they would have to make a decision and respond one way or another to the Word He had spoken to encourage their hearts.
When you’re in despair, what will be your response to God’s word? Rejecting it? Taking a little bit of it but not inviting Him into your life by full commitment? Or making the full commitment of saying to Him, “Stay here with us”?
5) He fed them and restored them completely to faith, revealing to them that the promises of His word had indeed been kept. Verse 30 “When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.” He healed their pain by feeding them and giving their hearts rest. No longer could what the religious leaders did by crucifying their Lord hurt them, because Christ Himself came to them in their pain and met their hearts’ deepest needs.
6) He opened their eyes. Verse 31 “Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him” They had believed in their heart the promises of God. They had invited Him in, making a commitment to trust what they had heard. And He met their need, physically and spiritually. Now they knew the truth. Now they knew the “Why” of the whole situation, and now they knew how God was bringing about immeasurable good from the bad experiences they had gone through.
Now everything has changed for these disciples! They take just enough time to comment to each other about how the Word had caused their hearts to burn. (Isn’t that interesting? They had just seen the risen Lord, and witnessed the miracle of His disappearing before their very eyes, and it is not the many miracles of this first Easter that they delight in, but the Word.) Then they’re off. They’re returning to the city of Zion. Returning to fellowship with the people of God. Returning to faith in the One they had hoped in but lost hope.
What’s more, after going through the despair He brought them through, they now have a stronger faith and more blessed fellowship with Him than ever before. Their love for Him has grown and they can hardly contain themselves as they run through the night to get back to Jerusalem as fast as possible to testify to their brothers about how wonderful a God they serve who keeps all His promises and has risen indeed.
Before the despair, their God was small in their eyes of little faith. “He was a great prophet” they had said, and “we had hoped” in him. They had hoped in everything Jesus could be to them without the cross, but now they had EVERYTHING God desired to give them. (Many people think they are followers of Christ because they go to church or respect the teachings of Jesus, but they have not encountered the Christ of the Cross, so He is just a prophet or teacher to them. You need to know the Jesus of Calvary. You need to know the Jesus of Easter. Otherwise, you are missing out on everything God has for you.)
Before going through the time of despair, they thought He was a prophet and a great man. Now, after the despair they realize that He is so much more. He is the Lord Most High. He is God made man to redeem them from their sins, who conquered death and now has given them eternal life! (After He has brought us through difficult times, we realize that He is so much bigger and greater than we had previously realized.)
And the great irony of the situation, they finally realize, is that the very circumstance that they thought was worth despairing over was God’s own plan to bring them ultimate salvation. They had become disillusioned with God, only to find out that the circumstances they complained about were bringing about the greatest cause for joy they had ever experienced.
The story is told of a man who was shipwrecked and stranded alone on a desert island. For a long time that seemed like a lifetime, this man prayed to God asking Him to send someone to rescue him. But, little by little, his hope faded and he began to give up on God.
One day, he was in need of rest from his despair and he was returning to the beach where he had done his best to build for himself a modest hut for shelter. When he got there, he looked with horror as he saw that the hut was completely engulfed in flames. Not only had God failed to rescue him, he thought, but now He was allowing the only semblance of a home he had on this lonely island to go up in smoke. It burned to the ground and left his hopes in ashes. And he completely gave up on God, falling on his face in the sand and weeping bitter, hopeless tears.
But he had given up on God a moment too soon.
Within the hour, a ship came up to the shore to pick him up and take him back to civilization. In just a moment’s time, what seemed a hopeless existence turned to sheer joy. As he boarded the boat, he asked the captain, “How on earth did you find me?”
The captain, a little confused by the question because he thought the answer was obvious, responded, “We saw your smoke signal.”
He had given up on God a moment too soon. He could only see God as a small God. If God couldn’t save his little hut, he had thought, then God didn’t care or couldn’t fix his problems at all. But in reality, God was much bigger. He could bring a boat across the way, too far away for the man’s eyes to see and know to signal for help. And God could start the fire and raise the smoke signal and cause the crew of the ship to see it and cause them to realize that the smoke meant there was a stranded person there who needed help.
We see our problems from our limited perspective, and tell ourselves that if God can’t do what we think we need, He can’t help us at all. But God sees the big picture. He is in control of everything in the universe, and there is no limit to the ways He can help us in time of need. We need to have faith in His word, even in times of despair. Because it is always too soon to give up on God.
This man despaired the loss of his hut, when God wanted to give him a home. The disciples despaired the loss of their “prophet,” when God wanted to give them a Savior.
Sometimes the very thing that we see as the last straw is the situation God is using to bring about a greater good in our lives. Like a man despairing over the loss of a hut that would be useless to him after he was rescued — or like disciples that were holding on to a mere “prophet” when God was offering them Himself as a Savior, we give up hope. But God has a plan in mind for something far better than the things we are grieving over. And when we turn to His word, and commit to believing the precious promises therein even when things look bleak, He reveals His will and opens our eyes.
Then we give thanks to Him for coming after us on the Emmaus road. Thanks to Him for sharing with us from His precious word. Thanks to Him for bringing us to the point of decision. Thanks to Him for feeding us and meeting our need. And thanks to Him for opening our eyes so that we can return to fellowship with even greater, even deeper joy and love for Him than we had before.
Glory to His Name!
Sermon video Mark 2:1-12, in which Jesus continues to prove Himself God in the flesh by proving His authority to forgive sins through the healing of a paralytic.
Here’s today’s message from Mark 1:40-45, in which Jesus establishes His authority as God over leprosy, and shows God’s compassion for the lost and power to save. https://youtu.be/_zYU0iJjJYU
Sermon video–Mark 1:29-39 –in which Jesus continues to establish proof of His authority over all things, leaving all who do not believe and receive salvation without excuse.
Jesus, the Word of God in the flesh, teaches the Word of God written, with Authority, not as others do. Then He proves His authority is legitimate by commanding an unclean spirit, who has no choice but to obey against his will. That story and some lessons we learn from it, in today’s message on Mark 1:21-28 is here: https://youtu.be/pkfArbsW5BA
Set Free to Serve
A Walk of Faith Devotional by Dave Bunnell
From the close of part 1, right after Peter had endangered himself and his testimony in the garden of Gethsemane, by using a sword to strike off the ear of the servant of the high priest: “…. But none of these four terrible consequences actually happened. Because the mercy of God intervened in three wonderful ways that show us how God deals with us, too, in the aftermath of our greatest failures.”
And now, the conclusion of the devotional:
First, Christ rebuked Peter. This was a loving gift of God for Peter. “Put your sword away,” Jesus said, “for all those who take up the sword will perish by the sword.” This rebuke meant more than just the obvious fact that if Peter kept fighting, they would kill him. There was great depth of spiritual knowledge imparted by His words. Jesus was telling us all that if we try to fight a spiritual battle with human strength, we will lose. Take up your sword, and you will die by it. Is your fight against temptation? Try fighting it in your own strength and willpower, thinking you stand, and you will fall. Is your fight against the deception that blinds a loved one who doesn’t know the Lord? Try fighting that deception with your own words, wisdom, and intellect, and you’ll know the pain of watching them stay unsaved. Is your fight against those who oppose you because of your Christian faith? Try fighting them with any human means, and watch how quickly they make a fool of you. To win spiritual battles, you must take up spiritual weapons. He who lives by the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, will see his flesh die by it, so that his spirit might live victorious.
We need to remember that when God rebukes us, it is a great gift. The name “Nathan” literally means “gift from God.” It was Nathan that God chose to rebuke David after his great sin with Bathsheba. The rebuke is a gift. To paraphrase a proverb, “the rebuke of a friend is like a kiss on the cheek, while the flattery of an enemy is like a slap on the face.” We need to never despise the Lord’s chastening and correction, because it is an act of the deepest kind of love, and it protects us, as it did Peter here.
The second wonder of Christ’s actions was to take Peter’s sin upon Himself. He didn’t even have to wait for the cross to show His sacrificial intentions. Two gospel accounts tell us that Jesus told the soldiers, “I am the Man you seek. Let these others go.” Peter deserved to be punished for taking up the sword, but Jesus intervened, telling the guards, “I’m the one you want to kill. I take responsibility. Take Me, and let Peter go free. Don’t hurt him; hurt Me.” The guards obeyed, because Jesus was in complete and total control of everything that was happening. They bound Jesus and took Him away, letting the others go. Jesus, the innocent One, had already placed His heart on the cross that night. “I want the punishment for your sins,” He was telling Peter. “Give it to Me.” That’s what He was telling you and me as He went to the cross, too, my dear friends. You see, the crucifixion wasn’t just a moment of dying for “the world” as a group. He was dying for you and for me as individuals. Jesus was taking the very specific responsibility and punishment for Peter’s specific sins. And for yours. And for mine. He was, in His omniscience, completely conscious of you and me and all the sins we have ever committed or ever will. And He was willingly taking the punishment for them all, saying, “I am the One to be despised, rejected, abandoned by the Father and punished. Let these others go.”
The third wonder of Jesus’ response to Peter’s sin was to take away the earthly consequences of it and erase the damage it had done. Jesus knelt down and picked up the severed ear which lay on the ground. He reattached it to the young man’s head. His holy power flowed through His hand to the side of that head, and healed it. It was as if the ear had never been cut off in the first place. As if Peter’s sin had not happened. Not only was Peter forgiven, but the consequences of his sin had been erased.
So often, we don’t want to let God do that for us. We ask Him for forgiveness of sins, and we receive it. Then we thank Him for it. But all the while, we’re telling ourselves, “I’m glad God forgives me, but I have to face the consequences for my sin myself. I made my bed, now I have to lie in it. I deserve to be punished, even though He has forgiven me, and now I just have to face the judgment that’s coming to me.” We think we’re being pious when we tell ourselves these things. We don’t even see the pride. We don’t even realize that Jesus died to take away our sins completely, and we try to take as much of the consequences for our sins upon ourselves as possible. Jesus is saying to us, “Don’t do that. I want the punishment placed on Me, so that I can restore you to be mightily used of Me. Let go of your pride. You made your bed, but I will lie in it.” Very un-American concepts, but very Christian ones.
James 2 says “Mercy triumphs over judgment.” That means that the mercy of God is not just equal to the judgment and condemnation we deserve for the sins we have committed–it’s greater. Much greater. “Marvelous grace of Jesus; greater than all my sin. How shall my tongue describe it? Where shall its praise begin?… Taking away my burden for all eternity, for the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me. Wonderful the matchless grace of Jesus! Deeper than the mighty rolling sea! Higher than a mountain, sparkling like a fountain–All-sufficient grace for even me. Broader than the scope of my transgressions. GREATER FAR than ALL my sin and shame! Oh, magnify the precious grace of Jesus. Praise His Name!”
“Mercy triumphs over judgment.” Have you been living under the judgment of your sins of the past? That’s not what God ultimately wants. True, sometimes, in some circumstances, there are earthly consequences for our sins that God chooses not to take away, just as He allowed David’s son with Bathsheba to die. But these situations are far rarer than the ones that He DOES take away the earthly consequences. (And even in David’s case, God limited the earthly consequences of the sin, by sparing David’s own life.) 1 John says, “For this purpose was the Son of God revealed: to destroy the works of the evil one.” If Christ’s sacrifice on the cross destroyed everything that Satan has done, you better be believing He can do a major number on your sins!
If you’re living under the condemnation of your own guilt and shame for sins of the past, let Jesus take that away. Allow Him to show you the fullness of His mercy. Don’t settle for seeing just enough of God’s love and mercy to get you by. Let Him reveal that love and mercy to you in all its fullness and glory. His mercy is greater than we can comprehend, so if you think you already know how great His mercy is, that means your concept of His grace is much too small to be realistic! Let Him show you that He wants to take the severed ears you have cut off and reattach them. He is willing and able to miraculously take away not just your sins, but many or even all of their consequences. That’s what He usually does. If you look back at all of the sins of your entire life, you will see that He has already done that for 99.9% of them, without your even noticing. And when it doesn’t happen, it’s often because we don’t let Him do it. We pick out our few greatest failures and demand of ourselves and of God the opportunity to be punished for them for the rest of our lives.
Our sin–even our greatest, most terrible sin–is finite. His mercy is infinite. In your worst moments of your deepest depravity and defilement, you are powerless to overwhelm the grace of God! You couldn’t do something unforgivable if you tried. No matter how far you have strayed from Him, you CANNOT escape the reach of His love!
I am not talking about a cheap grace here. Far from it! The debt Jesus paid for our sins had the highest price tag of any transaction in the history of the universe. But I am talking about a grace that has been paid for in full. It’s not a cheap grace, but it is a complete grace. A grace that leaves you with your entire sin debt completely cancelled. You have not been merely paroled or put on probation by God, but pardoned by Him.
If the only thing standing between you and the complete healing for the sins of your past is your belief that you deserve the earthly consequences for your sins, let God take that away from you now. Confess the pride and ask Him to forgive that and give you a heart that fully believes the truth and accepts and acknowledges His mercy in all its fullness. Of course you deserve punishment! Of course you deserve the consequences! God already knows that. He knew it before you ever committed the sin in the first place. And He knew before the dawn of time, that He had chosen you to be among the forgiven. Let Him have His way, without interference today. Let His mercy and grace and love go just as far and do just as much for you as He desires.
Then praise Him with your whole heart for as long as you live.
The second half of 1 Samuel 12 is very meaningful, deeply convicting, and greatly encouraging for our walk with Christ. Here’s today’s sermon video on the passage from the church in Cluj, Romania. English with Romanian translation.
Set Free to Serve
A Walk of Faith Devotional by Dave Bunnell
On the night before the crucifixion, Peter had failed Jesus as badly as one can fail Him. Would it be possible for God to ever use Peter again? Let’s look at that sorrowful night through Peter’s eyes, and see if God was at work in Peter’s life even during Peter’s time of disobedience. Through this, we will learn a wonderful and almost unbelievable attribute of God:
“If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot disown Himself.”
As the apostles were about to leave the upper room and head for Gethsemane, Peter’s heart was filled with pride in what he would accomplish for the Lord. “Even if everyone else here falls away from you,” he told Jesus, “I will stick with you, even in prison or in death.”
When we are prideful, God is forced to humble us, because we are useless to Him when we’re trying to accomplish good things in our own strength. He “resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” So Jesus was going to have to let Peter suffer defeat, so that he could be humbled. So that he could learn that his own heart was wicked and deceitful, and that there was nothing good in him but God.
The Bible tells us that as the last supper was being celebrated, Satan was there, and that he was conversing with Jesus. Satan wanted the apostles. Jesus addressed Simon Peter on the subject, “Simon,” He said, “Satan has asked to have you all, that he may sift you like wheat. But I have prayed for you.” (In the Greek, the “you” in the first sentence spoken to Simon is plural, referring to all the apostles.)
Because of the hardness of Judas’ heart, Jesus let Satan have him. But Jesus knew of Peter’s desire to serve Him. He knew it was real. He knew He just had to get Peter’s “self” out of the way for the promise of making “Simon” into “Peter” to come true. The pride had to be dealt with, and Peter had to be allowed to suffer defeat in his Christian walk. So that he could be restored. (Are you struggling with a sin that has control of you? Do you complain to God that you aren’t receiving deliverance? Perhaps there is a problem with pride that God is dealing with in you. Perhaps He has to let you suffer defeat, until you learn to depend on Him and not on yourself to find victory. Pray about the possibility, and let God speak.)
Jesus already knew how Peter would be restored after his fall, and how he would then be more useful to God, and thus more powerful than he had ever even dreamed of being. Walking on water was going to seem like a small miracle 54 days or so later at Pentecost. But Peter’s own small dreams and pride would have to be done away with first.
Peter’s fall was already set in motion. The omniscient prophecy of Christ had already been made. “Before the crow of the rooster, you will say you don’t even know Me three times.” But Jesus was also already prophesying and setting in motion Peter’s restoration to service. “When you return,” Jesus told Peter, “strengthen your brothers.” When we fail God, it saddens God, but does not take Him by surprise. And He knows how to restore us, before we fall in the first place. Are you struggling with the pain of a recent fall? Jesus wants you to return to intimate fellowship with Him, and allow His strength and power in you to be a force of strengthening your brothers.
Let’s go back to that night in the upper room.
In Peter’s pride, he made another mistake. He misinterpreted the word of the Lord — something we will all be capable of doing when we try to make the Bible tell us what we want to hear. Don’t torture the scriptures until they confess to what you want them to say. If you read God’s word and think it’s instructing you to do something un-Christlike, assume that you’re misinterpreting it, as Peter was about to do when He thought Jesus was telling him to do something ungodly.
Luke’s gospel records the last words of Jesus before leaving the upper room, which Peter would misunderstand. “He who has no moneybag, let him take it, and likewise a sack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment to buy one. For I say to you that this which is written about Me is about to be accomplished: ‘And He was numbered with the transgressors.’”
Jesus was telling His disciples, using symbolism, that the world was about to treat Him as a criminal. The attire of a robber is a sword and a moneybag. Jesus was telling them that as He went to the cross, they needed to be ready to identify with Him in being falsely accused by the world. “It’s more important than the clothes on your back to be known from now on as My followers,” He was saying, “so if you don’t have a sword, sell your garments to buy one.”
Peter misunderstood. So when he faced the temptation to refuse to identify with Christ, he would fall. Peter heard the word of the Lord through fleshly, prideful ears. He determined it to mean that he should get a literal sword and be ready to fight–and that’s just what he did.
Next came the familiar scene in Gethsemane. Three times, Jesus pleaded with Peter and the others to pray, and three times they refused, falling asleep. Three opportunities for prayer were ignored, so Peter would three times fail his Lord.
Then they come. A crowd of the religious leaders and a mob of Roman soldiers, armed with swords and clubs to take Jesus away. And Peter, in his pride, makes the dumbest mistake of his life. He pulls out his sword to fight a spiritual battle in the flesh. His anger flares and his fear causes his adrenaline to rush, as he commits a great sin against one of the few innocent people in the crowd. Swinging his sword at the servant of the high priest, Peter slices off his ear.
What if Jesus hadn’t intervened at that point? What would have been the consequences of Peter’s sin? I submit that four very bad results of Peter’s sin were on the way.
First, he was leading others into the same path of sin. One of the gospel accounts tells us that the other disciples were then asking Jesus, “Is now the time when we take our swords and fight?” Others were being called to sin by Peter’s sinful actions.
Second, Peter’s testimony for the Lord was being ruined. Jesus was a man of peace, and His disciple was becoming an insurrectionist and a man of war. He was committing an act of violence, and the world would rightly judge him.
Third, Peter was interfering with the sovereign and expressed will of God. Jesus had told them repeatedly that He must go to Jerusalem to be delivered into the hands of sinners to be crucified. Peter’s sin was fighting against God’s plan and against what Jesus had told them He was to do. So Jesus asked him then, “Shall I not take the cup that is before Me?” Peter’s flesh-driven battle against evil was actually interfering with the impending salvation of the cross.
Fourth, Peter was placing his own life at risk without God’s permission to do so, and so he was threatening the fulfillment of the promise of everything Christ had said He would do through Peter. Without God’s intervention, Peter had mere seconds to live. The Roman soldiers would have mercilessly bludgeoned him with clubs and cut off his head, along with the other apostles.
But none of these four terrible consequences actually happened. Because the mercy of God intervened in three wonderful ways that show us how God deals with us, too, in the aftermath of our greatest failures.
Part 2 coming soon