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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - His Time With Jesus - Part 1

Allen Jackson - His Time With Jesus - Part 1

Allen Jackson - His Time With Jesus - Part 1
TOPICS: Lessons from Peter, Peter

Well, it was July the 18, 64 AD when Rome burned, and it wasn't a short fire, it burned for several days and it seemed that it had about burned itself out and the wind changed and the fire resumed its intensity. For almost a week Rome burned. Tremendous destruction. Now the emperor at that time was Nero and Nero had had a plan he'd been trying to push through to rebuild significant portions of the city. So when the city burned, Nero was accused of setting fire to it. And Nero didn't like being the point of that accusation, imagine that. So he directed blame to the Christians and it was the most intense up until that point.

The first widespread directed from the highest levels of power in the Roman Empire where great outbreak of persecution against Christians began. They took Christians from every walk of life and subjected them to the most horrific punishments. In their public arenas they would take Christians and sow them into the skins of wild animals, put them in the arena, and then release wild beasts. They would put them in the arena and watch them be hunted by dogs. They were crucified in larger numbers than we'd ever seen before. Nero is reported to have taken Christians and tied them to poles, have them covered with tar, and then set a flame to illuminate his garden parties. It was open season on Christians. Peter was caught up in this.

In fact, at least by tradition, he was ultimately martyred in the midst of those persecutions that Nero unleashed. He wrote those two epistles that have his name directed them to the churches in the northern part of Turkey. And the message if you... we'll get to them in other sessions, but he talked to them about how to flourish in the midst of an increasingly hostile world with persecution growing and an intolerance of Christians. Seems relevant to me, seems important to me.

We know a lot about Peter. Mark's Gospel, the shortest of the four Gospels. Many scholars, there's never unanimous agreement, but many scholars think Peter was Mark's primary source, that it was the Jesus story particularly from Peter's perspective. Or in the book of Acts the first 12 chapters focused uniquely on Peter and his leadership in the church. He was the first pastor that the church would know. He lived for almost 30 years with the knowledge Jesus told Peter before Jesus left how he would die. Peter lived for 30 years knowing that he was going to face death for his faith. In Acts chapter 2 on the day of Pentecost when the church really went public in a whole new way, there were people from that part of Turkey where Peter is gonna write those letters, they were gathered there on the day of Pentecost.

We don't have any connection in the scripture to suggest that Peter had coffee with 'em after everybody's baptism got done in Acts 2. But it is not beyond the realm of plausibility that the relationships forged in Pentecost were followed up with the letter that Peter wrote. So I'm gonna take just three segments of the gospels. I had so much material, we were gonna be here till breakfast, and I had a feeling that would not be a blessing. So I wanna start with this notion, Peter was acknowledged a leader in the early church particularly after Jesus ascends back to heaven, the force of Peter's character, the strength that he brought to bear enabled the church to navigate those very difficult years when they're trying to figure out what it meant to be Jesus's people.

So you're gonna imagine if the Lord himself is gonna recruit him which he did, and train him which he did, and then give him the assignment to oversee the church that he would've picked the best of the best. I mean, just a flawless leader. Somebody with unwavering sense of direction and what's appropriate. I mean after all, I mean the Lord wouldn't entrust such an initiative to just anybody. And yet he recruited Peter from a fishing business not from a rabbinic school. He wasn't a scholar, he was a business person. He hadn't studied in theological institutions, he didn't have any credibility in Jerusalem amidst the power centers, they didn't know him at the temple.

In fact, what he was known for wasn't mostly godliness. And in Mark's Gospel, Peter goes out of his way to be certain that the reader understands his shortcomings, the times he lacked insight. In fact, if you follow him through the Gospels, you think he had to have been recruited from the slow group, and yet he was entrusted with this significant authority as this emerging Jesus story takes place.

So I wanna start with seeing if I could disabuse you a little bit of these ideas about perfection and insight that your life has to have been just perfect. You had to study it in the right school, and you had to come from the exactly correct kind of a family system, and then as you began to follow the Lord your instincts and insights had to always be just spot on in order to be trusted with the role of significance. 'Cause if those preconditions are true, if those presumptions are true, Peter could've never made the cut. And yet, he's a character of tremendous influence.

I spent several days with him, it feels almost personal to me at this point, but in Mark chapter 9, it says, "After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John". He's gonna take those three with him. They're gonna be the, you know Jesus didn't treat everybody the same. We kinda gotta shake that off. He had favorites. He recruited 12 and he gave them disproportionate attention and out of the 12, he took three and he gave them unique opportunities. "Well, it doesn't seem fair". Talk to the boss.

"He took Peter, James, and John with him and he led 'em up to a high mountain, where they were all alone. When he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus. And Peter said to Jesus, 'Rabbi, it's good for us to be here. Let's put up three shelters; one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.'" And then he puts in parentheses, it's a parenthetical insertion. That means, you know, this is written after the fact. Peter's relating these events to whoever it is that's recording them.

And so he gives them not a historical piece, he tells him what he was thinking. He said, "I didn't know what to say, I was terrified. And I didn't have the good sense to be quiet. At least James and John hushed, not me my mouth broke open. Let's build a building". "And a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: 'This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!'" You know, we chuckle about it, but it's noteworthy that in the history of Peter's interaction with Jesus, he's willing to also share with us the times, he put both feet in his mouth and kept walking. We wanna sanitize our stories or we wanna make them so glamorous that it makes sinning sound better than honoring the Lord. And as we read the narrative particularly through Mark, we're gonna find out that Peter was pretty normal.

Mark chapter 14, this was Jesus giving some instructions. They're on their way to Jerusalem. And he said, "After I have risen, I'll go ahead of you into Galilee. And Peter declared, 'Even if they all fall away, I will not.' 'I tell you the truth,' Jesus answered, 'Today, tonight, before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.' But Peter insisted emphatically, 'Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.'" I don't think Peter was being flippant. I think he was giving you the most honest representation of what he felt. You know, the challenge, the weakness in being guided just by your feelings is they're inconsistent. They're subject to lots of pressures. Whether how somebody looks at you, changes in the chemical composition of your body, they're good things, God gave us feelings.

And I think Peter gave an accurate report of how he felt, "I will stand with you". And Jesus said, "No, won't happen. You're gonna face some pressure tonight you've never faced before and you can't anticipate how you'll feel". The next sentence is, I don't wanna leave it out. It says, "All the others said the same". It's like, it's a quiet little insertion there. We're picking on Peter, but I think it's 'cause Peter wanted to be sure you understood his side of the story. If he's narrating the Jesus narrative, if he's giving this to Mark so it can be recorded, he wants to be sure that the people who are following him through understand. "I shut my mouth off again. I won't step away. You know, I mean the rest of them said it, but I said it more loudly".

See, we're learning to follow the Lord. And one of the things we're gonna have to overcome is our smugness, and our certainty, and our self-righteousness. Because we will face things before us we've never faced before and we're gonna need the humility to say, "We will choose the Lord". We have quibbled about things, folks that are embarrassing. We've quibbled about the days and the times which we would gather, or the architectural style of the buildings in which we would meet or muse, I mean, nonsensical stuff. Translations of the Bible. If you have access to a Bible, be thankful. Stop it. We're gonna have to grow up a little bit.

I don't wanna just train Bible scholars, I don't wanna gather groups of people and give them biblical information, we wanna learn how to take God's truth and utilize it in our lives to be transformed. So I went to 1 Peter, it's the letter he wrote very near the end of his life. He said, "Rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, and hypocrisy, and envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it, you may grow up in your salvation, now that you've tasted that the Lord is good". "Like newborn babies crave pure spiritual milk that you may grow up in your salvation".

Peter was honest enough, transparent enough, humble enough to give us multiple insights into places where he didn't get it right, where his instincts were wrong, where he didn't understand, where his responses were incomplete or he just didn't get the best outcome. He even records the places where Jesus had to correct him. But he can say to us then with some authority, "You're gonna have to grow up in your salvation, I've had to grow up in mine". And we've resisted this message. We have been so determined to say, "When we were born again, when we experienced the new birth, we got it all".

Now I'll grant you that legally you gained access to the kingdom of God, but experientially folks, you didn't get it all. If we loaded our cars and went to the hospital tonight, looked through the windows into the nursery, there's a bunch of little people over there kind of pink, freshly scrubbed. And technically they've got everything they need for life but they got a lot of growing to do. And if you have imagined that tenure or years in church is the same as growing up in the Lord, you're confused. We have to continue to choose the Lord. We have to decide we wanna grow up, we have to have a hunger for the Word of God. We have to be willing to yield and listen to the Spirit of God.

There's some things we will have to offload out of our lives. You can't choose or tolerate ungodliness or carnality without understanding it impedes your ability to grow up. And I think Peter is pleading with us, he did his best. I wanna change focus just a little bit because there's so much. I wanna draw your attention to two experiences Peter had around a fire, a charcoal fire. There's only two that I know of in the New Testament, we're gonna look at both of them. One, we're gonna be introduced to on the night that Jesus is gonna be condemned. He's betrayed and condemned. In Mark 14, it says, "They took Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests, the elders and the teachers of the law came together. Peter followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. And there he sat with the guards and warmed himself at the fire".

In the evenings, particularly late in the year, it gets cool in Jerusalem. And Peter is in a courtyard just on the other side of the doors. Jesus is being interrogated and will be condemned, and Peter is within earshot of that warming himself at a fire. Same chapter in verse 64. This is the interview with Jesus. "'You've heard the blasphemy. What do you think?' They all condemned him as a worthy of death. And some began to spit at him; and they blindfolded him, and struck him with their fists, and they said, 'Prophesy!' And the guards took him and beat him".

Now, Jesus is just on the other side of the, I mean, I'm sorry Peter is just on the other side of the door. He can hear what's happening. He's not blind to this, his best friend of the world is being spat upon, he's being accused, being mocked, being condemned, he's being beaten, and he's warming himself at a fire. It says, "Peter," verse 66, "Peter was below in the courtyard, and one of the servant girls of the high priest came by. She saw Peter warming himself, and she looked closely at him. 'You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus.' But he denied it. 'I don't know or understand what you're talking about,' he said, and he went out into the entryway".

Why would he do that? Smart guy. They're beating your boss, they've just condemned him to death. You know that the charges are illegitimate, you're afraid. It's not some theoretical fear. He is up close and personal with physical suffering for his faith. But he's caught because it's his friend. And there's been a lot of dialogue about it. I mean, it wasn't very long ago it's just been a matter of moments when Jesus said, "You won't be able to stand with me through the night," and Peter was going, "Oh no, these other clowns, I agree, but I'm different". It's not done. "When the servant girl saw him there, standing in the entryway," she's persistent, "She said again to those standing around, 'This fellow is one of them.' And again he denied it. And after a little while, those standing near said to Peter, 'Surely you're one of them, you're a Galilean.' And he began to call down curses on himself, and he swore at them, 'I don't know this man you're talking about.' And immediately the rooster crowed the second time".

Why wouldn't Peter leave after the first person recognized him? You see, if you were really afraid and you had that kind of recognition, you'd leave, you'd go hide. But that's his friend, I'm not leaving. But he didn't have the courage. Look at the next line. "Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him; 'Before the rooster crows twice you'll disown me three times.' Then he broke down". I think it happens the way Mark recorded it, I don't think he ran home and broke down. I think standing there in the entryway to that courtyard with all those people that have been watching him, and listening to his accent, and trying to remember exactly where they had seen him. We've all been someplace in public where you realize there's more attention being paid to you than you'd like. And at that point, Peter doesn't care anymore.

Now you know what happens. Jesus is tortured to death, he's buried, he's raised to life again. Peter and John can't find him. He meets with them behind locked doors. But in John chapter 21, they're back in Galilee. It says, "Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples didn't realize that it was Jesus. And he calls out to them, 'Friends, haven't you any fish?' And they said, 'No.' 'Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you'll find some.' And when they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. And the disciple whom Jesus loved," who's that? It's John. "John said to Peter, 'It's the Lord!' And as soon as Simon Peter heard him say, 'It's the Lord,' he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he'd taken it off) and he jumped into the water".

Of course he did, it's Peter. John says, 'It's the Lord.' And he just jumped out of the boat. "And the other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they weren't far from shore, about a hundred yards. And when they landed, they saw a fire burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. And Jesus said to them, 'Bring some of the fish you've caught.' And to Simon's credit, he climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. Full of large fish, 153," that makes me smile. They told you how many fish were in the net. "But even with so many, the net wasn't torn. And Jesus said to them, 'Come and have breakfast.' None of the disciples dared to ask him, 'Who are you?' They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. It was the third time he'd appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead".

I don't think it was lost on Peter that he's sitting next to a fire with Jesus. 'Cause it hadn't been but a few days ago, he was sitting beside a fire listening to Jesus. And there's still something between them. That there's a separation between them. Death didn't separate them, sin itself didn't separate them. But I don't think it's an accident that Jesus has this fire going on the shore and Peter's jumped out of the boat. I mean, John acknowledges the awkwardness of the moment that the disciples don't know what to say and they don't know what questions to ask.

I'm gonna look at another passage I didn't put in your notes, but for a moment, let me give you an application, 1 Peter chapter 1. These are the opening verses of the letter he writes. He's an old man when he writes this. Probably, I mean roughly 30 years on the other side of the events we just read in John 21. He said, "We've been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance". And remember Peter writes these letters near the end of his life trying to encourage people because persecution is growing. And he gives them a message in there if you can pause just long enough to hear it. He said, "You've been chosen by God," not because you always get the answers right, not because you always have the boldness you need when you should have it.

God chose you in spite of who you are, me too. In 1 Corinthians, Paul said, "He chose the weak and the flawed and those who didn't come from very important families, he chose those that nobody else would choose so that only God could get the glory". Makes me smile. I love it when people say that "Where's your church"? "Murph, Murph, Murph, Murph". It's near Nashville, yes it is. And then Peter says that "We've been sanctified by the work of the Spirit". To be sanctified is to be set apart. It's not your life anymore. To be a Christ follower means it isn't your life. The Bible says that to "Offer yourself as a living sacrifice".

Folks, we haven't thought about this enough. Peter understands it by the time he's an old man, he never goes back to being a fisherman. I mean, he may go fishing but he never goes back to the business of fishing. He's been sanctified for the work of the Spirit. And then he talks about obedience to Jesus Christ. You think Peter had had a lesson? Do you think sitting around that fire on the shore of Galilee he was more interested in obedience to Jesus? And then he gives us the pathway. We've been sprinkled by his blood. That's a little blind to us but on the day of Atonement, Yom Kippur once a year, the high priest, was the most somber of all the days in the Jewish calendar, when the sins of the people would be atoned for, and Jesus is the Passover Lamb.

And then the way that the high priest would go in and sprinkle the blood of the Passover lamb in the Holy of Holies, Jesus took his blood into the heavenly Holy of Holies to make atonement for our sins. I'm not sure that day sitting on the shores of Galilee Peter had emotionally caught up with that but I'm absolutely confident by the time that he wrote this letter, he said, "We have been sprinkled with that blood". Even if you have denied the Lord, even if you lacked the courage to stand next to your friend, even if you listen to the Romans give him a beating, and you wouldn't do anything.

You know, all of us remember that Peter denied the Lord, it's a part of his story and he was honest enough to tell it in scripture. But the reality is, we've all denied the Lord. Either directly or indirectly, we've been silent when should've used our voice, we were quiet when someone was criticizing our friend Jesus or the Jesus people. The good news is, Jesus reinstated Peter and gave him a valuable future in the unfolding Jesus story. He'll do the same for you and me. Why don't we allow him to bring that reinstatement to us today? Let's pray:

Father, I thank you that you love us. Even in those times when we have failed to find our voice or our courage or our boldness. And I thank you today for that forgiveness. Write a story for us that enables our life to be of great significance to you, in Jesus's name, amen.

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