Andy Stanley - When Fear And Faith Collide
So here's something that I've noticed, and I'm sure you've noticed this as well, in fact, this may be part of your story. It may be part of your story now, or maybe it's been part of your story in the past. Isn't it interesting, I think this is common to all of us, how often, how often faith deteriorates as our circumstance deteriorate. I mean, isn't this amazing? That faith often, for all of us at some level, right? That faith often deteriorates as our circumstances deteriorate. That our confidence in God, kind of rises and falls based on the circumstances of life.
Based on what seem, let's be honest, oftentimes to be the random circumstances of life. And in those moments our faith is suddenly and quickly, and sometimes instantaneously replaced with fear. And fear does a strange thing to all of us. You know what fear does? Fear turns all of us into fortune tellers. Fortune tellers, why? Because in those moments, somehow we become sure of what the future holds and what the future doesn't hold, and we become equally sure that perhaps nobody is holding the future. Certainly not God. And you may feel that way right now.
In fact, I think all of us feel that way to some level right? And who can blame us, I mean, everything has changed. I mean, your future has changed. The future of your family has changed. The future of your finances have changed. And while it would be easy for me to stand up here and say, just believe, just hang on, we're gonna get through this, you're gonna be okay, God's gonna be faithful. I don't really have the moral authority to tell you that. But I know somebody who does. I think if Simon Peter were here, he would tell us exactly what to do, and tell us exactly how to respond. More on that in just a minute.
Today we are actually in part six of our series, "You're Not Far". And this is a story of Peter's account of the life of Jesus as recorded by Mark, and it comes to us of course as the Gospel of Mark. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. And Peter right up front wants us to know that, because he writes this, or sort of dictates this to Mark, about maybe 30, 35 years after the resurrection. He wants his audience to know, that after 35 years of following Jesus, with all of his experience, he's lost most of his friends. With all of the things he's been through, he still believes that Jesus is the son of God, and he still believes that Jesus is his Messiah.
And right out of the gate he tells us, everywhere we went when I was with Jesus, he basically preached the same message, and here was the message of Jesus. Here's what he said, the time has come, in other words, the waiting is over, the world has been waiting. The Jewish world, the pagan world, has been waiting for God to show up in a way that would make God clear. The time has come. The kingdom of God has come near. Which means you are never far, and then he says, repent and believe this good news. Basically what this line means, is face it and embrace it, that God has done something brand new, and you are invited to be part of it.
Now if you've been following this series, you'll know that previously, on "You're Not Far", Jesus and his disciples, left Caesarea Philippi, they began to make the long journey south, through Galilee, into Judea, on their way, ultimately to Jerusalem, to celebrate Passover together. And as they're traveling, you'll remember this from last time, Jesus flips the authority paradigm upside down. And he says, guys, you need to understand, you know how everybody else in the world manages authority, how all the people with power and resources basically leverage their power and resources so that they can gain more power and resources. And they're all like, yeah, we know how it works. Right, and he says, you remember this from last time? Not so, with you. That's not the kind of kingdom I've come to establish, and I'm not that kind of king.
And before they can object, he leaves them. And he left us with this thought. For even, talking about himself, for even the Son of Man, a messianic term, for even the Son of Man did not come to be served, so if I've not come to be served, Jesus says, who are you to think you are here to be served? For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and give his life, and here was the phrase that bothered them, baffled them. And to give his life, a ransom for many.
This was the part they just couldn't get their hearts and their minds around. And that was, it's understandable why? Because, on their way from Galilee to Jerusalem, as they passed through Judea, the crowd gets bigger, and bigger, and bigger. As they near Jerusalem they are swarmed by Galilean, Passover pilgrims, on their way to celebrate Passover in Jerusalem as well. And not only is it a big crowd, there are rumors everywhere. There's a rumor that he actually raised a well known citizen named Lazarus, from the dead. There's a rumor that he actually healed a blind man named Bartimaeus, in fact, Bartimaeus is now part of the crowd following Jesus to Jerusalem.
So there's so much energy, and there's so much excitement. In fact, the text says this, that many people spread their cloaks on the road, before they even get to the city. They are so convinced that this is a messianic moment, that Jesus is about to proclaim himself king. They put their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. And those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, Hosanna, Hosanna. That is save us, save us. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! And then it turns political, they also said, blessed is he, blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David.
So they anticipated, what the disciples anticipated, that when Jesus gets to Jerusalem, he is going to proclaim himself king, and the new age that they had been praying for, and looking for, for generations, was finally upon them. And of course, the Twelve, the disciples, are euphoric. I mean, this, this was what they waited for, and all that talk about spitting and suffering, and flogging, and dying, all of that is erased. Clearly Jesus was mistaken. There's so much energy, it's like a festival, on their way to Jerusalem. And then it gets even better. They get to Jerusalem, even though it's late in the afternoon, Jesus insists that they immediately go straight to the temple.
And again, the Twelve are so excited. He's wasting no time. And here's what happened. They get to the temple, and to the temple courts, and Jesus walks in, walks up on that temple plaza, and he just looks around at everything, doesn't do anything, doesn't teach anything, doesn't say anything. And since it was already late, he turns around and he leaves. And he leaves the city and he goes back to Bethany with the Twelve. Bethany was about, a little over, a little less than two miles from Jerusalem. Of course the disciples were like, well that was kinda strange. So they spend the night in Bethany, then get up early the next morning, and they go back to Jerusalem.
So now the Twelve are thinking okay, this is it. They go straight to the temple. But instead of acting messianic, Jesus makes a big mess. You probably heard this story before, growing, if you grew up in church. He goes to the temple, and what does he do? He begins turning over tables, he runs out the money changers, he gets everybody's attention, and he accuses them of turning what was designed to be a house of prayer, into a corrupt, commercial enterprise. And of course the chief priest, and the leaders are so upset by this, and the disciples are so upset by this, because they need friends in Jerusalem, and they need friends in high places in Jerusalem.
But the text says this, the chief priest and the teachers of the law, they began looking for a way to kill him, because they had already heard from the people they had sent north to listen to him teach, that he was a troublemaker. But they feared him because the whole crowd was amazed, and this is so interesting. They were amazed, not at his miracles at this point. They were amazed at his teaching. Once again, Jesus leaves the city. Spends the night outside the city. The next day, he comes back, and this time he comes back to the temple. And the leaders are ready for him this time, because they have a feeling he's gonna come back.
So they've spent the night trying to come up with questions that would trick and trap Jesus, and separate him from the crowd. Because if they can get the crowd to turn on Jesus, then they can turn on Jesus, and arrest Jesus, and have him executed. So they start asking all these tricky questions, he responds with a parable, and of which, in the parable it's very clear to them that they're the villains, which makes them even more angry. Then the chief priest, and the teachers of the law, and the elders looked for a way to arrest him because they knew he had spoken the parable against them. But they wouldn't arrest him, and here's why, but they were afraid. They were afraid of the crowd and so they left him and went away.
Jesus continues to teach, he's on the temple mount. So they regroup and the Pharisees come up with some more trick questions, and the Sadducees come up with some more trick questions, and the Pharisees go first. And I want to spend a little bit of time on one of their questions, because to me, this illustrates the brilliance of Jesus, maybe perhaps better than any other thing that happened, in this particular season or period of his earthly ministry. And one of the reasons I wanna spend a little time on it is this. When we read this exchange, between Jesus and the Pharisees, we miss the significance of what happened. But this was a moment of brilliance.
So here's what happened. The Pharisees approach Jesus. They are right there, up by the temple, on the temple mount, beside where the sacrifices are made every single day. And they come to Jesus, and they start to try to butter him up a little bit. They say, Jesus, we know that you are a man of great integrity, we know that you fear God, and that you do not fear men, and that you don't even care what men think about you, So we have a question for you. And here was their question, and they thought this one through. And this was actually a good question. Is it right, is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not? Should we pay it or shouldn't we?
Now let me tell you a little bit about this tax. It was a poll tax, and a poll tax was a tax on every single Judean regardless of their age, and regardless of their gender, and regardless of whether or not they were working or not. Everybody had to pay this tax, and everybody in Judea hated this tax, because this tax coincided with the time when Judea came under direct Roman rule. So when Judea came under direct Roman rule, they imposed this tax, so they hated this tax, because it reminded them that they were not a sovereign state. And they had thought this one through, this was a good question, because if he says yes, it gets him in trouble with the Jewish patriots who hated this tax. But if he says no, they shouldn't pay the tax, it gets him in trouble with Rome.
So they've got him backed into a corner. And this is Passover season, this is the week of Passover, so the anti-Roman sentiments are high, and the crowd is silent. And I think Peter and the disciples were worried, it's like, oh no, they've come up with a good question. They have backed Jesus into a corner, how in the world is he gonna get out of this one? And here's what happens next. Jesus reaches in his pocket, and reaches in his other pocket, and goes for his wallet and goes hunh, hey, I don't have any money on me, and he says to the Pharisees, bring me a denarius and let me look at it. Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.
Now, Judean Jews were required to pay this poll tax with Roman coinage, and this is what the coin looked like. It was the equivalent of a daily wage, and on the front was the image of Tiberius Caesar, and the inscription around the edge, basically said, son of the divine Augustus. Which really interpreted means, son of a god. And then on the back of the coin, it proclaimed Tiberius to be the high priest of the Roman religion. So everything about this coin was offensive to Jewish people. And so Jesus says, bring me that coin. But that wasn't the worst part of it. They brought the coin, now that means the Pharisees had one on 'em. Somebody had one in their pocket.
So picture this, Jesus asks for the coin, he doesn't have one, he's not holding one. They are holding the coin in the palm of their hand and he asks them to look at it, and he says this. Whose image is this? And at this point in the conversation, checkmate, game over, drop the mic, Jesus wins. But we don't see it, we don't feel it, I guarantee you the crowd did, here's why. Because the Pharisees and the teachers of the law are carrying around images in their pockets, in their hands. This is one of the big ten, you are not allowed to make any image, one of the big ten commandments, you're not allowed to make any image, Judean Jews had no images in their homes, they had no images in the temple, they had no images in the city. It was against God's law to have or to make any kind of image.
This was one of the big thou shalt nots, and here they are, in the temple. And to rub it in, Jesus continues, and here's what he says. Who's image is this? And whose inscription is this? Now, little fun fact from history. Five years before this event, five years before this event, Pilate had actually brought shields into the city of Jerusalem, with a picture of Tiberius Caesar, and an inscription on the shields. He didn't have them put in the temple, he just brought them into the city. And people rioted, people quit work, they just sat down, they were gonna let the crops go untended because they were so upset. And even though Pilate loved to rub the Jews noses in the fact that they were not an independent state, even Pilate relented and removed the shields.
So this was a big, big, big deal. And these religious leaders were in no position to criticize Jesus, because they are carrying around on the temple mount, this idolatrous Imperial money. And so sheepishly they answer Jesus question. Knowing that they have been outdone by the Rabbi from Nazareth. Whose image is this, and whose inscription? Caesar's they reply. They know it's over. So let me get this straight. You have Caesar's image in your pocket at the temple? He shrugs and he says, well then, you should probably give that back to Caesar, don't ya think? Give back to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's. And Peter said, we couldn't believe it. You could have heard a pin drop. We thought for sure they had backed him into a corner.
In fact the text says this. And they, including the religious leaders, were amazed at him. So the Pharisees go off to kind of lick their wounds and try to come up with a better question. Next up is the Sadducees. Now the Sadducees, as you know didn't believe there was life after death, they didn't believe in a resurrection. So they come up with this ridiculous kind of hypothetical situation to show that Jesus belief in life after death was absolutely absurd. So they tell the story, they say a woman married a man, her husband died, so his brother married her, then that brother died, and then his brother married, and it goes on, and on, and on, to try to show, and it's basically, so then when she gets to heaven who's she married to, does she have seven husbands.
And Jesus, says to them, this was so offensive, he says to them, you haven't read your Bible. You haven't read Moses, and then he does something equally as brilliant. He takes a verb tense, you gotta read this, he takes a verb tense to show the absurdity of their view of the afterlife. And no surprise, from then on, no one dared ask him any more questions. It was amazing. So Jesus and the Twelve decide once again to leave the temple, and leave the city. And what happens next is extraordinary.
As Jesus was leaving, again, as Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, look Teacher, look at these massive stones! What magnificent buildings! Talking about the temple structure, on the temple plaza. Now it really was magnificent, in fact Herod had spent many, many years, and a lot of money, building the temple for the Jews. And he had built it earthquake proof, he'd made it earthquake proof. In fact, some of these stones, get this, weighed, not 500 pounds, 500 tons.
So the disciples are standing there with Jesus, they're looking back at the magnificent building. And then Jesus says something extraordinary, he said, do you see all these great buildings, replied Jesus, and of course their like, of course we do. Not one stone, not, not one building, not one stone here will be left on another, every single one of these stones will be thrown down. Wait, fall down, no Jesus said, thrown down. Like, every one of these stones, here's what they're looking at. They're looking at the temple that's on this 37 acre plaza, and Jesus is saying, every single one of these stones used to build this extraordinary structure, is gonna be thrown off the plaza.
Here's the picture, of the plaza. That every single stone used to build the temple, is gonna be thrown off the plaza into the valley below. And the disciples are thinking, not even an earthquake would do that, that would take, well that would take an army. Jesus walks on. They follow him, they end up at the Mount of Olives. That afternoon, perhaps they're having dinner, on the Mount of Olives, looking back over the city, and specifically looking at the temple. And the disciples come to Jesus, and they say Jesus, what did you mean back there about not one single stone being left on another.
And then Jesus, this is amazing, what follows in fact, I think is the most remarkable, the most unexpected, and the most verifiable, prophecy, ever given by anyone at any time. It's found in Matthew, Mark and Luke. Jesus, in this moment, predicts the destruction of the city of Jerusalem, and specifically, he predicts the destruction of the Jewish temple. And he predicts it and explains it in extraordinary detail. And I'm sure none of the disciples could even imagine such a thing happening, but sure enough. 40 years later, on August the 6th, in the year 70, the Roman legions went through, finally got through the outer wall, the secondary wall, they got into the city of Jerusalem, after a four month siege. And they were angry. And when they got to the temple, they lit everything on fire that would burn.
And then in the aftermath, Titus, who was in charge of the legions at the time, Titus used slave labor, Jewish slave labor, and they tore down every single stone off of the alter, and around the temple, and of the temple. And they literally dragged every single stone over to the edge and pushed it off the edge of that plaza. In fact, if you visit Jerusalem today, and if you visit the temple today, you can actually see these stones that are still laying at the base of the wall. And what Jesus predicted, as unrealistic, and as unimaginable as it was at the time, actually came true.
And why was this important? Because as Jesus had said earlier, something greater than the temple, is here. Something greater than the temple is here, there will come a time when the temple will no longer be necessary, it will be obsolete. Something greater than the temple has in fact arrived. The old, was passing away, the new, had come. The kingdom of God was near because the king was in town. Something new had come and the new was better, and the new was portable, and most significant for you and for me. Something that would make the you beside you every bit as sacred as the temple in Jerusalem.
What was about to take place was that the spirit of God was about to inhabit his followers. And as the apostle Paul would say, much later, we would become walking, talking temples. So, the time had come. The kingdom of God had in fact come near. All that was left was for the king to ratify this new arrangement between himself and mankind. Here's what happened next. Now the Passover, which was why they had come to Jerusalem to begin with, and the Festival of Unleavened Bread were only two days away. And once again they are back outside the city, and his disciples come to him, and they say to him, Master, where do want us to go to make preparations for you eat the Passover meal?
Now he had secretly made arrangements already, but they didn't know that. And he says to them, go into the city, and you'll see a man carrying a jar of water, follow that man, and he will take you to the place where we're going to celebrate Passover. Now, finding a man carrying a water jar, that seems kind of unusual to us, I mean, how many men would there be in a city that large, carrying water jar, and the answer is, not many, because women carried all the water jars. So sure enough, they go to the city, they find the man carrying the water jar, they follow him, he leads them to a large house, they go in and they prepare a room up on the second floor, for Jesus and his disciples to celebrate Passover. And here's what happened.
When evening came, and why did he enter the city after the sun went down? Was because every time he walked in when the sun was up, he was surrounded by people with questions. So when he knew it was safe to enter the city, he arrived with the Twelve. And Peter I'm sure thought to himself, this is got to be it, and it turns out, it was it all right. It just was not the it that Peter and the apostles were expecting. You'll remember this if you grew up in church. Here's what happened. While they were eating this Passover meal, while they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and he gave it to his disciples, and he said, take it, and as they were about to eat it, he said, this is my body.
And I think if Peter had given us more details, he would have said, and we all hesitated, his body? Slowly they take it, and Jesus continues. Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank from it. And now it was too late to go back, no going back. He held up the cup, and he said by the way, this is my blood, and suddenly it becomes evident he's making Passover all about himself. But he wasn't finished. This is my blood of the covenant, wait a minute, you're making a covenant? But only God can establish a covenant. Only God can make a covenant. Besides a covenant has two parties.
A covenant between who and who? Jesus continues. Which is poured out for many. A covenant between God and everybody. To which I'm sure they thought, that's great, but we don't need a covenant. We need a kingdom, and we were hoping that you were our king. As it turns out, it would be days, and for some of the men in the room, weeks, before they understood the significance, of Jesus words. Before they understood the significance of what they had just experienced. But what was clear was something was up.
And while they were just delighted at the fact that they were in the city and so close to Passover, and certainly so close to Jesus proclaiming himself to be the messiah. Jesus seemed disturbed, and if you know how the story goes, they eventually leave that upper room after singing a hymn. They make their way to the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prays. He's so disturbed, and then they hear a disturbance, and then they see torches, and then there's Judas, leading the temple guard to arrest Jesus. You'll remember that Peter reacts violently. He actually cuts off the ear of the high priest servant. I think, personally, he was aiming for Judas, and Judas must have ducked and he missed, and Jesus says, wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute, wait, am I leading a rebellion, said Jesus, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me?
Wait a minute, I'm not a fugitive from the law, I've not been hiding from you, every day, in fact all week long, I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me in public. And then Peter makes a decision that he will regret for the rest of his life. Because suddenly, his expectations of Jesus, and his experience with Jesus, don't line up. Suddenly there's a gap between what he expected Jesus to do, and who he expected Jesus to be, and what he experienced. And in that moment, as is often the case for us right? Peter lost hope.
And I think, when he made this next statement and Mark was about to write it down, I think perhaps Mark said, now Peter, are you sure you wanna document this, for the future? And I think Peter said yeah, because this is what happened, we all deserted him and we fled. And no wonder, it was over, clearly Jesus was no king. Jesus was no messiah. There would be no kingdom. And after all, isn't it true, it's human nature to assume the worst about God, when circumstances are at their worst. Again, faith almost always deteriorates when circumstances deteriorate. And in those moments faith is quickly replaced with fear.
And like Peter, in those moments, we all become fortune tellers don't we? We're all sure that we know what the future holds, and we're almost confident that nobody is holding our future. And if that's you, and when that's me, I think I know what Peter would say to us. I think he would lean in, and he would look at you, and he would look at me, and he would say hey, I get it, I understand. I've been there and I've done that. In the moment when everything went dark. In the moment when suddenly my future went dark, and suddenly I went from being the follower of a popular Rabi, to being an outlaw, and a fugitive from the law, I remember. I believed the lie, and I lost hope, and I deserted him along with everybody else.
And Peter would say, and you need to know, that was the second biggest mistake of my life, that led to the biggest mistake, and the greatest regret of my whole life. Because everything I saw, and everything I felt in that moment, led me to the conclusion that in fact God, is not near. But friends he would say to you, and friends he would say to me. In fact, he was. In those dark moments, when God seemed distant and still, looking back I realize now, he was actually close, and he was more active than he had been in centuries.
And I think Peter would say to you, and he would say to me, don't do, what I did. Don't cut and run. Don't abandon your savior, don't abandon your heavenly Father. Peter would say, I would give anything to be able to go back and relive that night. Now here's something that's fascinating to me. And maybe will be fascinating to you as well. Think about this. The very men, the very men who abandoned Jesus, when suddenly their future went dark and there was a gap between what they expected and what they experienced. The very men who experienced that, the very men who left Jesus, who fled when he needed them most.
Are the same men, are the same men, that would spend the rest of their lives, and would risk the rest of their lives, ensuring that you and I can know with certainty that in fact, God is near. And that you are not far. And because of what happens next in the story, because of what happens next, everything standing in the way between you knowing that, and experiencing that, has been removed. So don't miss part seven of "You're not Far".