My Easter message from 2015.

What makes a great story?  First, you must have a great author.  He must excel in creativity and character development.  His language needs to rich and for a more memorable effect new.  A great author not only knows the language but also creates language.  Words are memorable.  They are life-changing.  

A great story always has a great beginning.  It has an opening line that captivates its audience such as . . 

“It was the best of times and the worst of times” (A Tale of Two Cities)

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clock was about to strike thirteen” (1984) 

“All children, but one, grow up” (Peter Pan)

I was 12 going on 13 the first time I saw a dead body (Stand by me)

A great story always has compelling characters.  The connection between the character and its audience makes a character compelling.  However, truly great redemptive stories need a character that is like us but not tainted as we are. A character that rises above all worldy trappings. These types of characters typically find their origin outside our universe.  We need them; we want them because only they can deliver us from our doom. 

All great redemptive stories are nothing more than a copy of Scripture. They start with the way life as it should be and then out of nowhere tragedy strikes and life as those characters knew it no longer exists.  It is at this point that a great storyteller will take us on a journey to the redemption of what was lost.  A great story takes us on a journey through our emotional spectrum.  It’s a journey so compelling that we know not what is on the next page or the next scene.  

Why are we so captivated by such storytelling?  It is the remnants of Eden; a residue that remains from our first parents' fall. We sense deep within our hearts that something is not right.  We feel displaced, disconnected, and disoriented.  However, all of our attempts at self-salvation continually lead us further into those aforementioned emotions.  It is from this sense and longing that our heart seeks to be therapeutic. So we write books and create movies that tell stories of fictional salvation and completely ignore a grander and greater story of factual salvation. 

This story that your heart wants to believe and needs to believe is not fictional its historical.  It is not being written it has been written.  It is breathtaking, mysterious, complex, compelling, and absolutely real.  


Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22


Then I said to them, “If it seems good to you, give me my wages; but if not, keep them.” And they weighed out as my wages thirty pieces of silver. Then the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—the lordly price at which I was priced by them. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the Lord, to the potter.” (Zechariah 11:12–13, ESV) 


“Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who stands next to me,” declares the Lord of hosts. “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered; I will turn my hand against the little ones.” (Zechariah 13:7, ESV) 


It reminds us that our Lord allows evil people to exist within His church.  Jesus said in (Matthew 13:24–30, ESV)  “He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’ 

You may ask; why does the Lord allow such in His church?  Our Lord permits such to exist so that His will and plan might be accomplished.  Judas’s evil actions served as a tool that our Lord used to accomplish His plan of salvation.  Ananias and Sapphira's evil actions were used by our Lord to strengthen and purify the early church.  In both of these stories evil was used to serve our Lord’s purpose and to bring glory to His name.  As Spurgeon once said; “omnipotence has servants everywhere.”

Let us find comfort in knowing that no matter how dark this world might become it will never extinguish His light.  Let us draw comfort in knowing as Luther once said; “The Devil is God’s Devil”.   Let us rest in Jesus' sovereign superintendence concerning all of life’s events including those that are evil.  The cross of Christ reminds us that God will use evil to bring about its own end.

Some might object to my calling Judas evil because he was called a disciple; so let me defend my claim. Calling yourself a disciple does not make you one any more than drinking Tang makes one an astronaut or standing in a garage make one car.  A title is nothing more than a title.  A title is only as genuine as its testimony.  Someone may bear the title of hero.  However, this title has no weight without testimony.   

A disciple is defined by the following testimony.  First, true faith forsakes all for Jesus.  True faith doesn’t follow him for treasure because it has seen Him as the true treasure.   Judas followed Jesus for the treasure he believed that was to come on this earth, not for the fact that Jesus was the treasure himself.  

Secondly, true faith betrays its life into the hands of Jesus. False faith will betray Jesus for whatever is next best. In the case of Judas money was the next best.  

Thirdly, true faith is a life that is submitted to Jesus.  False faith will study Christ's teachings but will not submit to them. Judas believed what Jesus taught but it was a belief such as that taught in James 2:19; “you believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe – and shudder.”   Demonic faith will allow you to believe to the point of shuddering but not to the point of salvation.

When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray him.” (John 6:60–71, ESV) 

Judas shows that the right title doesn’t save but the right testimony does.   Scripture also shows us that a testimony is not what we have done for Christ but what Christ has done in us. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:21–23, ESV) 


If you bear the title of the disciple but do not possess its testimony then you find yourself this morning standing with Judas.   

Throughout the centuries many have wandered how could Judas be so close to Jesus and yet so far away.  How could he kiss the door of heaven only to walk through hell’s gates?  How could he have committed such treason after three years? How could some who bore the title of disciple be possessed by the Devil?  Scripture helps us to understand this dilemma with graphic and uncomfortable language.    

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.” They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”” (John 8:31–47, ESV) 

Satan's ability to enter Judas was due to his familial relationship with him and the final rejection of Jesus.  Judas has fully succumbed to satanic son-ship. He has refused the Son for the final time. 

One final observation from the life of Judas, which will help us to better, understand Peter’s situation. Satan cannot subdue God’s children; he can only sift.


Peter serves as a comforting example to every Christian. Luke takes John’s account of Jesus' conversation with Peter and gives us further insight.  John’s account only speaks to Peter’s thrice denial whereas Luke’s account tells us about Christ's supplication, Peter’s sorrow, and subsequent strengthening of the brethren.

God allows Satan and his cohorts to sift believers for the purpose of sanctification, not destruction.  How do we know that we will not be destroyed?  Peter was not destroyed and neither will we because Christ is praying for us.  Ponder that a new this morning Jesus is praying for you.  What is he praying?

Thomas Watson in his book “All Things for Good” says that when a Christian is weak, and can hardly pray for himself, Jesus Christ is praying for him, and he prays for these three things. 

  1. He prays for our preservation, that we will be kept from the evil one “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.” (John 17:15, ESV) Kept meaning to retain possession of, preserving.  Jesus prays that Peter’s faith would not fail.  Meaning that it would not die out, cease, or run out.  He didn’t say that it would not falter but that it would not fail.  Let us find comfort that we Jesus prays His prayer is always answered.
  2. He prays for our sanctification Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.(John 17:17, ESV).  Jesus is committed to our sanctification “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6, ESV).  Jesus is not praying that we be perfect but that we continue in God’s perfecting work.
  3. He prays for our glorification.  “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. (John 17:24, ESV).  Christ is not content until his saints are in his arms. 

Peter’s sin was his sin even though Christ prophesied it just as Judas' rejection was his rejection though prophesied by Christ.  God’s sovereignty in no way relieves us of our responsibility.  Peter couldn’t go where Jesus was going because only Jesus could die.  

Jesus, through death by crucifixion, is going to the Father.  Peter cannot follow him now.  Why not? Because according to God’s eternal decree, the exact moment for Peter’s departure had not yet arrived and Peter was not yet spiritually ready.  However, afterward, Peter will go the way of Christ. He, too, will go to the Father he will go to the Father by means of crucifixion.

Peter needed to learn how to lay down his life for Christ by Christ laying down his life for Peter.  Peter’s language indicates how little he knew about his own heart.  He needs to be sifted so that he can be shaped for what Christ has for Him to accomplish.  Peter in his present condition cannot strengthen his brethren because he is too strong (James 4:6–8, ESV) “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. (1 Peter 5:5; Proverbs 3:34)” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”  Peter needs to be broken and so Satan becomes a means of his breaking.  God does not cause sin nor does he tempt anyone to sin.  However, God will use sin and Satan to accomplish his greater purpose. God hates sin but he will not let it frustrate his plans and purposes for those whom the good work has begun.  Sin’s consequences will not conquer him but will serve to change him. 

What makes us certain that Peter was a Christian?  Satan doesn’t ask to sift his own. Jesus says in Luke’s account (22:31) that Satan wanted to sift him like wheat.  Wheat was a metaphor reserved only for true believers.  Jesus is praying specifically for sustaining faith. Peter according to (Luke 22:32) will “turn again” this is by definition repentance.  Only true believers repent. This turning again will enable him to strengthen the brethren.  This to is an act that can only be performed by a Christian.

Let me take a moment and explain the crucial difference between Judas and Peter.  They both saw Jesus during their sin Judas in (Matthew 27:3) and Peter in (Luke 22:61) and both responded in profoundly different ways. It was said that Peter would “turn again” and he did as he wept bitterly over his sin (Luke 22:62; Matthew 26:75). This means that he would do again what he once did before his leaving.  Peter returned to his faith because of his past conversion.  Judas according to Matthew 27:3changed his mind” after he witnessed Christ being condemned.  Other English translations such as NASB and KJV translate this as “he felt remorse”.  This translation seems to better capture the writer’s original intent. Remorse in Greek is a similar word to repentance.  However, repentance teaches “change of mind and character” remorse means “regret”.  Everyone experiences guilt, regret, and sorrow.   This is distinctly human, not Christian. Remorse is emotional whereas repentance is spiritual.  Listen to Paul’s teaching concerning how to discern between these two similar yet different ideas; “for godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death” (2 Corinthians 7:10).

Judas' actions give proof that he was remorseful but not repentant. This is seen in his lack of effort to defend or rescue Jesus.  He had no desire to vindicate or save Jesus but only to save his own conscience, which he attempted to do by returning the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders.  It was also taught in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 19:16-21) that if a person bore false witness he should die the same death as imposed on the one to whom he bore the false witness.  True repentance would have led Judas to seek death by crucifixion but once again he sought his own means of salvation.


Jesus comforts his disciples with these encouraging words of their eternal existence with him.  Jesus further comforts them in his teaching on the Holy Spirit in (vv. 16-30) who Jesus calls the comforter.  

    • IT’S A PATH LEAD TO PEACE. (14:1)

We are commanded to ““Let not your hearts any longer be troubled”.  Trouble terminates, as we trust specifically in God. 

The hearts of the disciples were filled with a medley of emotions. They were sad because of the gloomy prospect of Christ’s departure; ashamed because of their own demonstrated selfishness and pride; perplexed because of the prediction that one of their own numbers would betray the Master, that another would deny him, and that all would be ensnared because of him; and finally, they were wavering in their faith, probably thinking: “How can one who is about to be betrayed be the Messiah?” Yet, at the same time, they love this Master. They hoped against hope. All this is implied in the words, “Let not your hearts any longer be troubled.”

Jesus could exhort them to trust in trouble because he likewise was troubled and trusting (13:21; and compare also Matt. 26:38; Luke 22:28, 44). 

Furthermore, what Jesus is expressing is not merely; “Don’t worry be happy.” When Jesus says, “Let not your hearts any longer be troubled,” he fortifies this in the solid ground by saying; Continue to trust in God, also in me continue to trust. Though their faith was beginning to waver Jesus says, “Continue to trust!”

These men were experiencing what we know today as separation anxiety.  He calms their troubled heart by telling them this peace was found in a place.  We were made for a place.


It’s a place that is being prepared for prepared people.  This place is not one of permanent separation but one that is temporal.  Jesus would reinforce this temporal separation in (v.18) “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”  In (v.19) and in (16:16) Jesus says; A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” 

It’s not only a place for prepared people but it is a plentiful place.  It’s a place with many rooms.  The NLT translates “more than enough room”. It has more than enough room for all those who would believe.  It has enough room for those such as Peter and Judas.  You might feel as though this sermon doesn’t give much hope to those who find themselves in Judas' position.  However, listen to Paul’s words concerning those in Ephesus who had been converted (Ephesians 2:1–3, ESV) “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”  

Not only have we been saved for a place but also we have been saved for a person.


I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am there you may be also”.  The phrase “to myself” can also be understood to mean “face to face.” So our passage could read this way; I will take you to be face to face with me. Did you hear what Jesus said; “I want you where I am”.  These words amplify Jesus' earlier words in John’s Gospel; “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  This is why he died and for no other reason.  Jesus did not die to surround himself with relics from His earthly war.  He died to surround himself with the reward of his suffering.  He died so that he would live with those he died for; Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. (Revelation 21:1–3, ESV)  He died for God’s glory but in Heaven He will be glorified for his dying; “Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:11–12, ESV) 


So who do you find yourself most relating to in this morning sermon?  Are you the Peter who is in need of restoration?  Was there a time in your life when you said that you would die for Jesus but recently your life has been marked by denial?  If this is you today is your  “when you turn” day.  

Our Heavenly Father’s preferred path is not sin but holiness.  However, only a sovereign God can use our sin as a means to further our sanctification.  Again this is not our Father’s preferred path but nothing will thwart the completion of what he began. 

Why are you here this morning?  I believe it is due to Jesus' prayers for you.  Jesus is seeking his wandering sheep this morning.  Do you hear His voice this morning saying, “this is the way walk in it.”  If so why don’t you respond this morning in repentance? 

Or do you most find yourself relating to Judas?  Are you familiar with Jesus and faithful in religious activity, but knowingly not a member of his family?  Do you have a faith that saves or one that merely shutters?  Has your understanding of who Jesus is produced remorse or repentance?  If death visited you today would your reality be; he/she kissed the door of heaven yet walked through the gates of hell.

Don’t believe for one second this morning that this story and its realities are a lie.  Search your heart.  The remnants and residue of Eden remind you that there is truth in what I am saying.  Even more so there is an overwhelming pressing on your heart that this is true.  Believe in Jesus Christ this morning and know the reality of this story.