Craig Smith - Moving Out On Mission
So I want to talk to you today a little bit about the secret ingredient to spiritual growth. My guess is that everybody who’s with us today, whether you’re online or in-person, you wanna grow spiritually, but it’s pretty easy to get stuck. And I wanna talk to you about the secret ingredient to getting unstuck. And I’m gonna be honest with you, what I’m gonna share with you today is very different than what I would have shared with you, like 20 years ago, if I had been preaching this message because 20 years ago, I really thought the secret ingredient to spiritual growth was information. I really thought if you could just give people enough information about God and enough good theology and doctrine, they would automatically like live right before God.
So I gotta be honest, I preached some horrible sermons. I feel like I need to find a bunch of people and, like, repent in front of them, “I’m really sorry, I did that to you.” Like I remember this one message I preached, I don’t remember what the passage was. I do remember I like took 15 minutes in that message, to go off on the proper theological and philosophical way to understand the relationship of God to time. Yeah, I know. And like, I remember that I had a guy afterwards come to me and say, “Hey, I think that was really deep.” I was like, “What do you mean, you think it was deep?” He was like, “I don’t have any idea what you said.” Yeah. That should have been a big clue, right?
What I’ve come to understand over the years is that information doesn’t drive transformation. I used to think it did but I understand now that information doesn’t drive transformation. In fact, sometimes information can get in the way. Sometimes we can accumulate so much information about God that it actually does something kind of nasty to our hearts. It actually makes us arrogant, which gets in the way, it derails transformation.
I had a college English professor, I’ve shared this before, the college English professor that he seemed like the nicest guy in the world. In fact, I don’t know what his name was, I called him Professor Claus because he looked like Santa Claus, like, he had a round belly and a big bushy white beard and twinkly eyes. We studied the Gospel of John in my college English class, and it wasn’t a Christian university so I thought that that was really interesting. But I realized that the reason we studied the Gospel of John, was because he was trying to talk Christian students out of their faith. He was not Santa Claus, he was Satan Claus, right? But the thing is, he knew his stuff, like, he knew the Gospel of John really, really well, way better than I knew it at the time. And honestly, maybe even in some ways, maybe better even than I know it today. He had a lot of information but it hadn’t driven a transformation. If anything, it had made him incredibly arrogant, he had almost contempt for his Christian students who actually believed what the Gospel of John taught us about Jesus.
And so, I definitely understand what Paul said and why he said it to the church at Corinth. He said, “But knowledge puffs up, while love builds up. Those who think…” I love this, he said, “Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know.” So information doesn’t drive transformation, it can actually derail it. Now, that doesn’t mean that information is bad. I think the reality is that information can direct transformation. You know, having the right information about who God is, who Jesus is, gives us a picture of where we’re supposed to be headed, and helps us to cooperate with the Holy Spirit as he moves us in that direction. It’s much easier to get somewhere when you have some idea where you’re going, right? So information can direct transformation, it just can’t drive it. Okay, so what does, right? What can drive transformation? And maybe you’re kind of a new follower of Jesus, and you’re wondering if there’s something that can kickstart your spiritual growth, or maybe you’ve been following Jesus for a while, and you’re feeling kind of stuck, and you’re wondering, you know, is there something that I can do that can help me move forward and becoming more like Jesus? Well, that’s what I want to talk to you about today.
And to do that, I want to take you to a story of a man who experienced a dramatic transformation, a man who became so much like Jesus that, in fact, I think the story we’re going to get shows so many similarities to Jesus and everything he says and does that they’re kind of in your face and you’re forced to go, “Man, how did he get there? How did he get to this place?” So if you want to follow along, we’re going to be in the Book of Acts chapter 9, starting in verse 32 today, if you want to make your way there. We’re gonna be talking about Peter. Peter is one of the Apostles, one of the twelve guys that Jesus entrusted with starting this thing he called the church and we haven’t seen much from Peter in the last several chapters in this series because they’ve kind of been absent from the story. What’s been happening has been going on through other people but here, Peter reenters the story and he reenters with some momentum.
This says Peter traveled about the country, “He went to visit the Lord’s people who lived in Lydda.” Now, if you’ve been with us in the series, you may notice that that’s different than what we’ve seen at this point. Luke says that he was traveling about and we haven’t seen that. Luke’s told us that Peter and the Apostles have been staying pretty close to Jerusalem, maybe even sort of mistakenly staying a little close to Jerusalem, because as we’ve said throughout the series, Jesus gave the Apostles a three-stage plan for the church. Stage one, he said, “You’re gonna take the Gospel to Jerusalem, but then stage two, you’re gonna take the Gospel to Judea, and Samaria, the surrounding area.” And stage three he said, “You’re gonna take the Gospel to the ends of the earth to the rest of the world.”
And the Apostles haven’t been doing anything beyond stage one. The rest of the church has. In fact, the rest of church was scattered by persecution. And Luke specifically said, “The whole church was scattered, except the Apostles.” Everybody else has moved out on mission, but the Apostles have been staying really close to home but now we see a change in that, right? Now we see that Peter was traveling about the country.
And you might go, “Was that really a new? Maybe that’s what he’d been doing all along.” But actually, it doesn’t come across super well in English but in the original Greek, it’s pretty clear that this is a new thing. Let me give you a really, really literal translation of this sentence, it would say, but it came to be that Peter was traveling about through all the places and he visited. Three kind of interesting things there. First, it says that it came to be that he was traveling. And the point of that is that this is a new thing, this is not what he’s been doing, this is a new thing. It came to be he started to do this.
Second thing is that he was traveling about. And that’s an interesting phrase because it’s exactly the same phrase used in Acts 8:4 when the early church was scattered, everybody except the Apostles, the other church was scattered. And then Luke said that they traveled about the country sharing the Gospel wherever they went. So the idea is that Peter is now doing what the rest of the church had already been doing. This is a new thing. And then it says that he was traveling about through all places, which is to say, he’s not hanging out in one place anymore. He’s not in Jerusalem. He is not just in Judea and Samaria, he’s moving out on a mission, and specifically, Luke says that he’s come to the city of Lydda.
Now, Lydda was about 25 miles to the northwest of Jerusalem so this is pretty far, a ways out in those days, you know, 25 miles is a long way. So Peter is a long way from home base, that’s a good thing. He’s moving out on mission. And it was part of Judea and Samaria. So this is stage two territory. So Peter is at least out in stage two territory, okay? And while he’s out there, “He found a man named Aeneas, who was paralyzed and had been bedridden for eight years.” So he comes to this area, and he finds a man who was paralyzed and had been bedridden for eight years. And I’m curious, I know some of you have been following Jesus for a long time, you’ve studied the Bible a lot. Does that sound familiar to anybody? Does that sound like something you’ve heard before? Anybody? Nodding heads. A few people? Yes. If it sounds familiar, it’s probably because it sounds a lot like something that happened to Jesus, actually.
There’s a moment and you can read about it in John chapter 5, if you want to jump there, I’ll just check this out. John chapter 5, Jesus came into an area and it says, “Here a great number of disabled people used to lie, the blind, the lame, the paralyzed,” same word. “And one who was there had been an invalid,” which is the same word in Greek, as bedridden, “Had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.” So you got a lot of the same words. And so, you had the same kind of people. And so it’s a very similar kind of situation. And it’s too similar probably to be a coincidence.
Luke, who wrote the Book of Acts, wants us to kind of catch that similarity because the point is that as Peter moves out on mission, he’s encountering situations that Jesus encountered and the question we want to ask is how’s he going to handle him? Is he going to handle him like Jesus, or he’s going to handle him in some other way? So he encounters a situation, what does Peter do?
“‘Aeneas,’ Peter said to him, ‘Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and roll up your mat,’ and immediately Aeneas got up.” What’s interesting about that is it’s almost exactly, almost word for word what Jesus said to that man in a similar condition he encountered. And then Jesus said to him, “Get up, pick up your mat and walk.” And at once the man was cured, he picked up his mat and walked. Pretty similar, right? Probably too similar to be a coincidence. And by the way, the Hebrews didn’t have a word for coincidence, which suggests they probably didn’t think that there was such a thing. They thought that sometimes God works underneath the surface, and we’re not always aware of it until we see coincidence and we’re like, “Well, that was weird.” And God’s like, “Yeah, sure, go with weird. It’s not weird, I’m just working and you’re kind of blind to it.” Okay. We’re supposed to see these similarities.
So Peter encounters a situation very much like Jesus encountered and he handles it almost word for word, the way that Jesus handled the situation, right? God works through him, Jesus works through him and heals this man. And the point seems to be that the more Peter followed Jesus on mission, the way he’s moving out on mission, the more he followed Jesus on mission, the more he became like Jesus, right? The more he became like Jesus, he acted like Jesus, he talked like Jesus. The more he moved out on mission and the more he followed Jesus on mission, the more he became like Jesus.
I just want you to kind of put a pin in that thought for a moment because we’re gonna see that idea continue to develop throughout this story. “And all those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him,” they saw the man who could walk now, “and they turned to the Lord.” So interesting enough, Peter is now even more on mission. What he’s doing is bringing more people to a relationship with Jesus. So you have this kind of pattern, right? You know, the more he follows Jesus on mission, the more he becomes like Jesus, and the more he becomes like Jesus, the more he’s on mission with Jesus, bringing people into relationship with Jesus, there’s a kind of a spiral thing going on.
Now, “In Joppa, there was a disciple named Tabitha. In Greek, her name is Dorcas,” which is a very unfortunate name. “And she was always doing good and helping the poor.” Now, in Joppa. Joppa was about 35 miles to the northwest of Jerusalem. So the last city, Lydda, that’s about 25 miles northwest, Joppa was 35 miles which was farther out. So the point is that Peter’s moving farther out on mission. Yeah, here’s the thing about Joppa is that it was a region mostly inhabited by Gentiles, meaning there were Jewish people there, but there are a lot of non-Jewish Gentiles there, okay? And it was a seaport, which is where people came and went to the rest of the world.
So this is kind of stage three territory, right? The ends of the earth stuff. And the point is Peter’s moving further out in mission. And as he moves into this area there’s a woman there named Tabitha. Now I really wish Luke had just stuck with her Aramaic name, Tabitha is her Aramaic name but he went further and he said, you know, her name in Greek is Dorcas, like we needed to know that, right? Why do we need to know that? But by the way, just a little free piece of advice, I know sometimes people have kids and like, “I should name them a biblical name.” I’m gonna advise you not to name your child Dorcas. And if you do, my suggestion is don’t bother saving up for college, you want to save up for therapy because they’re going to need that. It’s just that it’s very unfortunate and it’s such a weird name actually because, in Aramaic, Tabitha is the word for gazelle, which is beautiful. Can we show a gazelle here?
Right? I mean, that is a beautiful creature, isn’t it? It’s elegant, and it’s refined and it’s lovely and in Arabic, Tabitha. That’s a beautiful name for a beautiful creature, right? And somehow or other the Greeks looked at that beautiful, refined, lovely creature and went, “Yeah, that’s a Dorcas. Right there, that’s a Dorcas.”
But, why does Luke tell us the Greek name like why do we care? Well, it’s actually going to become important here in a little bit. So just hang on for a second. But he starts with the Aramaic name, which is Tabitha, which is a beautiful name for a beautiful creature, but it’s also a beautiful name for a beautiful woman because she was always doing good and she was always helping the poor, right? This is a beautiful woman. But, “about that time, she became sick and she died. And her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. Now, Lydda was near Joppa, so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him, and they urged him, ‘Please come at once.'”
And that is also remarkably similar to something that happened to Jesus. We won’t go there right now but you can read about it in Mark chapter 5, that there was a moment when there was a man named Jairus and he had a young daughter who died. And when she died, they put her in a room rather than taking her out of the house, which would have been normal, but they put her in a room, and some men went to Jesus. And they said, “Would you please come back at once?” And so again, Peter, as he’s moving out on mission is encountering situations almost exactly like the ones that Jesus encountered. And the question again, is, how’s he going to respond?
Joppa has a little bit of a resistance built into it because, again, it’s mostly a Gentile place. Is Peter gonna be willing to go, is he gonna be at the beck and call of random people? I mean, he’s the Apostle Peter, right? He’s the leader of the church. Is he going to be at the beck and call of people who call him into uncomfortable places? But Peter went with them, just like Jesus did. “Peter went with them and when he arrived, he was taken upstairs to the room. Now all the widows stood around him crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them.”
And I want you to notice something really important here there is an emphasis on the widows. There’s an emphasis on widows, this is only the second time in the entire Book of Acts… In fact, the only other time in the entire book that we have widows mentioned specifically. So there’s an emphasis on this group, the widows and he also says that they were showing Peter the clothes that she had made while she was still with them. Like that didn’t need to be said, right? It’s not like anybody’s gonna think that she made these clothes after she died. So why bother saying that she made these while she was still with them? And the point is to put a strong emphasis on these widows. And so they’re standing around Peter and they’re crying, and then they’re showing him the robes that she made, and understand what that means is that they’re showing him the robes that they were wearing.
And this isn’t a fashion show. They’re not going, “Oh, look how good her seams are, look how lovely her taste is,” no, no, no. They are going, “Hey, look, I’m wearing clothes because of this woman, I have something to wear because she took care of me.” In the ancient world, widows were among the poorest of the poor. They were in incredibly vulnerable, powerless positions in ancient society. But Dorcas had been taking care of them. She had been with them. She’d been providing for them. And so now they’re standing around Peter, and they’re going, “We don’t know who’s gonna take care of us.” That’s basically the question. The widows we’re wondering who’s going to provide for us now, do you understand that?
What’s interesting about that is that it’s very similar to something that happened earlier in the Book of Acts. We saw back at the beginning of the series, in Acts chapter 6. In Acts chapter 6, there was a situation where some widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food, they were in need, but they weren’t getting their needs met. And so people brought that to the Apostles and the Apostles delegated the work. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with delegating the work but the way they did it revealed, I think, something about their attitude towards widows. Listen to their words. If you weren’t with us a couple of weeks ago, it’s worth understanding what they said, as they delegated somebody else to take care of widows, “They said, ‘It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the Word of God,'” neglect teaching, “‘in order to wait on tables,'” which is a strange turn of phrase. “‘Brothers and sisters, she’s seven men from among you, who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom, and we will turn this responsibility over to them and we will give our attention to prayer and to the ministry of the Word.'” To teaching. To prayer and teaching.
And again, I don’t think that the delegation was a problem but the way they talk about this ministry suggests that that’s not a good thing for us to be doing. As the Apostles, it’s more important that we focus on teaching and prayer. And the problem with that is that it’s not very much like Jesus. Jesus throughout his ministry was constantly taking time out to take care of widows. He fed widows. He healed widows. He taught about widows constantly. Widows featured prominently in many of his parables. They’re always sort of the hero, or they’re the people in desperate need being mistreated by somebody else. Widows were clearly very important to Jesus.
In fact, Jesus criticized spiritual leaders who didn’t care about widows and focused on other things. In Luke chapter 20 we’re told this, “While all the people were listening, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Beware of the teachers of the Law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplace and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets.'” In other words, they’re prideful. But, “‘They devour widows’ houses, and for a show make lengthy prayers.'” Isn’t that interesting?
And again, I’m not saying the disciples, the Apostles made a mistake by passing it off but in their way of talking about it, they suggest that they’re not all that much like Jesus when it comes to his heart for the powerless. In fact, there’s some kind of uncomfortable similarities between their attitude and what Jesus warned could easily happen. And so it’s interesting, Peter now finds himself surrounded by widows who are going, “Who’s going to take care of us?” And I love this because it’s a second chance to get it right. And I love that Jesus gave him a second chance because I can’t tell you how many times I need second chances.
I can’t say how good it is to be reminded that we worship a God of second chances, right? And let’s be honest, third chances, and fourth, and fifth and sixth. Like I get it wrong, so often the first time and often the second or the third but we worship a God for whom our failures are not fatal. God doesn’t go, “You didn’t get this right, you messed up, you’re a little bit off on this one, so I’m just done with you.” That doesn’t happen. Jesus died to pay for every one of those mistakes, even the ones we haven’t made, yet. He already knows about them. He’s like, “Yeah, you’re gonna mess up on this one a lot still but it’s okay, I’ve already paid for it.” And he keeps giving us these second chances. And so now Peter is in the situation. And again, he’s confronted with widows in need and he has a second chance. And the question is, how’s he gonna handle it?
“And Peter sent them all out of the room and then he got down on his knees and he prayed.” That’s so powerful. He sent them all out of the room, which is, by the way, exactly what Jesus did when he was in that situation in that room with that young girl who died. The first thing he did was he sent everybody out of the room. Now Peter sends everybody out of the room. Looks just like Jesus. And I’m not entirely sure I know what the sending out of the room means. If I had to guess I’d say it’s probably a sign of humility. The point is that, that they don’t want anybody in the room focusing on the miracle because then it’s easy to go, “Well, then that means that you’re a really important person because you can do these miracles.” He doesn’t want them really focusing primarily on the miracle. There’s probably some humility in that.
“And then he got down on his knees and he prayed.” And that’s powerful in a way that’s really easy to miss because, in the modern world, we’ve come to equate getting on your knees with prayer. And so it almost seems like that’s just another way of saying that you’re praying, right? In fact, if somebody said to you, “You know, I was on my knees last night,” you’re gonna probably naturally assume that they were doing what? They were praying, because getting on your knees and praying, they’re synonymous, right? But what’s interesting is, that’s not the case in the Bible. In fact, in the Bible, it’s pretty unusual to get on your knees and pray. I can only find three instances in the entire Bible, people clearly getting on their knees to pray. That’s not normally what it meant. It didn’t normally mean prayer, what it normally meant was humility.
Typically, in the Bible, when somebody gets on their knees in front of somebody else, they’re expressing humility. In fact, interestingly enough, the only other time that we see Peter get on his knees in the Bible was the first time he met Jesus. The first time he met Jesus, he’d been on the shore and mending some nets, they’d been out all night and hadn’t caught any fish and, and then Jesus showed up, he was teaching, and he’s backing up to the seacoast as people kind of kept crowding around him. And finally, he asked Peter, you know, in a couple of seconds, “Hey, could we put the boat out from shore a little bit,” and they got out and they weren’t very far out. And then Jesus said, “Why don’t you put down the nets for a catch of fish?” And Peter went, “We’ve been out all night, there’s no fish. And dude, it’s the wrong time of day. It’s the wrong part of the lake. There’s no fish, but whatever, dude.” It’s a rough translation to Greek.
So they put the nets down, and they started to haul them up and as they hauled them up, they started encountering resistance. And as they pulled on them, they began to realize the nets were completely full of fish. So full, we’re told that the nets began to break, that the strings began to snap. And eventually, they had to get other people to come. And between them, they managed to get all the catch of fish into the boat. And Luke tells us that the boat was so full that it began to sink. And it was at that moment that Peter had a lightning-bolt realization. He looked at Jesus and he went, “There’s never this kind of fish in these kinds of quantities at this part of the lake at this time of day. You didn’t just know where these fish were, you made this happen.”
What Luke says is that he fell to his knees. And he said to Jesus, “Go away from me, Lord, I’m a sinful man.” That’s humility, right? Now Peter is on his knees. What we need to understand is this is a demonstration of humility. And in it, you can almost hear Peter’s heart beating a little bit faster and you can almost sense his thoughts moving in the direction of going, “Jesus, I get it. I didn’t get it back then but I get it now. I get how important these powerless people are to you and how important they need to be to me. I didn’t get it right back then but I’m going to get it right now. Would you do work through me?”
So he prays and, “Turning toward the dead woman, he said, ‘Tabitha, get up.'” And what’s interesting here is I promised I’d come back to this. Luke moves from using her Greek name. He’s been using Dorcas throughout this passage but now he starts to use her Arabic name again, Tabitha. Why the switch? Why the shift? What it suggests is that what Peter was doing, was speaking Aramaic in this moment, okay? He used her Aramaic name, so he would have been speaking Aramaic. And in Aramaic, check this out, in Aramaic, to say, “get up,” he would have had to say, “Tabitha, koum.” All God’s people went, “So?” Right? What are you waiting for? You’re getting into this information thing again, right? Here’s the thing, just let me geek out for a second, okay? It’s really very, very interesting. Peter would have said in Aramaic, “Tabitha, koum.” Tabitha, get up.
Back in Mark. As Jesus was looking at this little girl who had died and been laid to rest there, Mark says this, “He took her by the hand and he said to her, ‘Talitha, koum,'” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, get up.” In Aramaic, Talitha means little girl. And so you see the similarity there, right? Jesus took her by the hand and said, “Talitha, koum.” Now, you hear in Acts, Peter telling the dead woman, Peter said, “Tabitha, koum.” It’s just one letter difference. You see how much he sounds like Jesus? I mean, that’s a remarkable coincidence.
And it’s not just a coincidence too because this is an interesting thing, again, sorry, just got to get off here. It’s weird that in the Gospel of Mark Jesus’s words in that moment were kept in Aramaic. All of his other words are rendered in Greek. The Gospel of Mark is written in Greek, all of it, but in this one little spot, those words were kept in Aramaic. Why on earth would Mark have kept them in Aramaic? And so here’s what’s so interesting. You know, Matthew and John, they were eyewitnesses to everything they saw, so their Gospels are eyewitness accounts. Luke interviewed eyewitnesses but Mark wasn’t one of the original disciples. He wasn’t an eyewitness, so where did Mark get all his Jesus stories from? And the answer is he got from Peter. Peter is the source behind the Gospel of Mark.
So as Peter was telling Mark this story, he said, “Yeah, Jesus said,” and I don’t know, maybe the Bible went on, he said, “Yeah, when Jesus said to this woman… Oh, wow. He said exactly what the Holy Spirit led me to say to that woman in the house in Joppa.” And so he told Mark, “Hey, I want you to leave that one in Aramaic. Because what’s happening is that Peter was realizing something incredibly important. He was realizing that it was in this moment that he was the most like Jesus probably at any point in his life. It was in this moment that he was most like Jesus, that he was never more like Jesus than in this moment as he was serving those widows and being used by God to bring back the woman who had cared for them.
Peter is like, “I gotta remember that.” Which is interesting, because here is the thing, Peter was a great preacher. He’s a great communicator but he came to realize ultimately that it wasn’t when he was delivering his most powerful sermon that he was the most like Jesus. Peter was a great leader. People followed him. Thousands of people followed him. Looked to him for their leadership but he is realizing it wasn’t at my leadership best that I was the most like Jesus. I was the most like Jesus at this moment, when I was helping the powerless. So he looked at her and just like Jesus, he said, “Tabitha, koum.” “And she opened her eyes, and seeing Peter, she sat up, and he took her by the hand, and he helped her to her feet. And then he called for the believers, especially the widows, and presented her to them alive.”
Don’t miss that, especially the widows, because that’s who it was for. It’s so important that we get this right. See, this miracle wasn’t proof of Peter’s power. It was proof of Peter’s willingness to humbly serve the powerless. Are you with me, church? It’s so easy to miss that. It’s so easy to go, “Oh, look, Peter, such a powerful Apostle, he could even raise dead people.” He can’t. Only Jesus can. But why did Jesus do such a powerful miracle in this moment? It’s not because Peters is the best. It’s not because he’s so powerful. This isn’t proof of Peter’s power, it’s proof of Peter’s willingness to humbly serve the powerless. And it’s in this moment that he’s the most like Jesus.
“And this became known all over Joppa and many people believed in the Lord,” right? And you get this pattern again, right? He’s moving out on mission, which means he’s becoming like Jesus, and he’s becoming like Jesus, he moves out on mission, and he gets a chance to be more like Jesus, and he moves out on mission. It’s just this interesting spiral. “And Peter stayed in Joppa for some time with a tanner named Simon.” Which is an interesting and actually a very powerful way to conclude this story. He stayed in Joppa for a while with a tanner named Simon. Why does that matter? Because a tanner wasn’t the kind of guy that Jewish people stayed with. A tanner, you know, they work with hides, and that meant they had to touch dead animals and according to Old Testament Scripture that God had given them, if you touched a dead animal you were unclean until morning, you’re ceremonially unclean until morning.
Now, over the years, what happened was Jewish people began to take pride in how obedient they were to God’s Word, and not only obedient to God’s Word, but they began to take pride in how many rules that they had invented to keep them even farther away from breaking that rule they were able to follow. And so Scripture says, if you touched a dead animal you’re unclean till morning. But the Babylonian Talmud, it was a collection of Rabbi teachings, it said, “Woe to him who was a tanner by trade.” Like if you’re a tanner, if you’re working with dead animals, you’re like the worst possible person. You’re not on God’s good side. And so what happened was, people tried to stay away from tanners. They didn’t want anything to do with them because there was a point of pride, how clean, how religious they could be.
Now, Peter, staying in one of their houses? He is staying in the house of the very kind of person that good Jewish people stayed away from? Who does that? Jesus does that, right? That’s what Jesus did. Jesus hung out with sinners and tax collectors. He went into their homes, he said to Zacchaeus, the tax collector, “Get down out of that tree, right? Today, I got to stay in your house.” He hung out with prostitutes. Hanging out with those kinds of people doesn’t give you prestige and power. It’s not a point of pride that you’re hanging out with those kinds of people, but it is a point of humility, right? Jesus is the guy who does this kind of thing. Now, so does Peter.
And you see, the point is he’s, he’s a lot like Jesus. It’s not where it started out. Peter is impetuous. And he’s rough around the edges. If you follow Peter’s story through the Gospel, the Book of Acts, he gets it right sometimes and he gets it spectacularly wrong sometimes. He’s in the process, like, the rest of us. That’s really good news. But here we see a very different Peter, here we see somebody who has experienced tremendous transformation. He’s so much like Jesus. And the question that we’re supposed to be asking is like, what did it? Like, what was the secret sauce? Right? What was the secret ingredient that drove that transformation? Was it new things he learned? It was things he practiced. He was moving out on mission, that was key. He was serving the powerless.
The point is this, if we want to become like Jesus, we have to humbly serve others in need. That’s the point. If you want to grow in your faith, but maybe like I said, maybe you’re a new believer and you feel how can I jumpstart my process of becoming like Jesus? Because that’s what we’re all about at Mission Hills. We say we will help people become like Jesus and join him on mission. Maybe your new volunteer’s like, “Well, is there any way that I can like fast forward it?” Yeah. You can humbly serve others in need. Or maybe you’ve been following us for a while, but you’re feeling kind of stuck. You feel like I don’t know that I’ve become a lot more like Jesus in the last month or the last year. Or maybe it’s been a longer period than that. I feel stuck. How do I get unstuck? Humbly serve others in need, that’s the secret sauce.
So I just want to ask you to wrestle with this very simple, but really important question. How will I humble myself, and follow Jesus on mission by serving someone in need this week? We’ve been doing challenges throughout the series. And the challenge for this week is to actually maybe write a letter or maybe take something to someone who’s in physical pain, who is struggling physically. It’s kind of what was happening here, that’s a person in need. And by humbling yourself, what we mean is, just by taking that time, you’re actually humbling yourself, because you’re kind of saying, “Hey, you know, my agenda is not as important as their need and so I’m going to serve that person.” You’re humbly serving someone in need by that and God will bless that. He will use that to begin to move you forward from where you are in your relationship with him.
So maybe that’s what you need to do. Or maybe, maybe there’s somebody that needs your forgiveness, and you’ve been withholding it. And in your pride, you’re going, “But I have a right to continue to hold this against them.” Maybe. But humility would say that we do what Jesus did, and we offer forgiveness even when they don’t necessarily deserve it. Or maybe, maybe you need to ask for forgiveness. Maybe pride is keeping you from telling somebody, “I did you wrong and I’m sorry, will you forgive me?”
Or maybe you need to realize that, you know, powerlessness is a very broad category. And in fact, on one level, every one of us is powerless. We may not be widows. We may not be poor but we are powerless in what we need most. We’re powerless to get a relationship with God that we need because our sin separates us from God, and you’re surrounded by people, you have people in your life who are powerless to get what they most need, a relationship with God. And maybe serving them would be that you invite them to find and follow the Jesus that you follow. And that can be difficult. It can be awkward because I don’t know how it’s gonna go if I maybe invite them to come to an Easter service or I share the Gospel with them and I talked to them about my faith in Jesus. You know, I don’t know how they’re gonna respond and pride can keep us from going, “I don’t want to take that risk.”
Okay, this is a great opportunity to humble yourself and serve someone in need because they’re in the same place of need that we all were in the same place. We cannot get we most need. We can’t earn our way into forgiveness but Jesus offered it to us and he offered to us humbly, right? He gave up his position, his power, and his prestige in heaven to come to die in the most humiliating way possible on the cross to pay the price for us. So maybe, maybe you need to humble yourself and serve someone this week by taking one of those invitations on your way out inviting them to come to Easter. Or getting up the guts to share the Gospel with somebody in your life that needs Jesus like you did. But whatever it is, you want to get unstuck in your spiritual life, this is the secret sauce. We humbly serve others in need. Would you pray with me?
Jesus, we thank you for your clear demonstration of this principle that you loved us so much that you’re willing to give up your prestige and your power to humble yourself, even to the point of becoming obedient to your Father and death on the cross. Without your humility and your willingness to serve those of us who are in need, we wouldn’t be here. We would not have the hope we have. We realize that to become like you means that share that same hope. We share that same love. We adopt that same willingness to humble ourselves and serve those you’ve put in our lives that have need, whatever that need is. Holy Spirit, we just invite you to move in us right now. Speak to us about someone in need that you’re calling us to serve, to be like Jesus by serving them. Holy Spirit, give us clarity. In God, through your Holy Spirit, would you give us the courage to do it? Would you bless us as we move out on mission. Would you bless us so that our moving on mission gives us more opportunities which transform us in a way that information never could? We come to you humble right now and ask that you move in us and through us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.