Going Public - See For Yourself - Peter

Going Public  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Good evening ladies and gentlemen of the the internet!
My name is Charlie Kae and I’m the lead pastor at Grace Empire in Wesley Chapel, Florida and I would like to welcome everyone to Grace Empire online.
Our vision is help hurt people restore, revitalize, and refresh through a relationship with Jesus X.
Everyone is welcome at Grace Empire, but if you were to ask us what our focus is, we started Grace Empire to reach the non-affiliated, gnostics, and non-believers. If you or someone you know has been hurt by religion or has been burned out by doing church, Grace Empire fits a unique role for those that are looking to reengage their faith or find an accepting community.
As a church, we try to keep Jesus at the center of everything we do, so we are praying that you encounter and experience our living God tonight.
We love interaction. So feel free to comment, ask questions, and ask for prayer while you’re watching and the admins will address them ASAP. If you have a prayer that is more personal in nature, you can email us at prayer@graceempire.life and our prayer team will begin praying for you immediately.
But before we continue, our online disclaimer.
Grace Empire Online focus on giving you sermons - so without a doubt - this is an incomplete version of church.
As we move forward with this online church thing, I wanted to urge you and remind you that online church should never replace the community you get from your local church.
We love and are so very honored that you tuned in with us today and by no means am I saying this to guilt trip you, hurt you or make you feel inadequate in anyway. We know everyone is on a different journey with God and the fact that some of you are watching is a huge step and I applaud you for that.
At Grace Empire, our goal is to keep Jesus at the center of everything we do and a big part of that is understanding our place within the church. It’s not just that you need people (which you do); but it’s that people need you.
But as I said, the online church is an incomplete version of what God intended the church to be. The local church also gives you a place to
Worship / Praise / Sing
Met with other believers in Fellowship and discipleship
To serve our community through social action
Fulfill the Sacraments of the church - Which for us is baptism and communion.
And lastly, gives our tithes and offering
At GXE we teach that we give to give, not give to get. We give our tithes and offerings because we are thankful to God for providing for our needs. It is also to acknowledge that we live, work, and are sustained because He allows us to be. And because of the advancements in technology giving is an easy one.
You can give online through our website www.graceempire.com, or via text by texting the words GraceEmpire to the number 77977 and then follow the link texted to you.
You can either do that now, or at the end of the message.
Alright with all that out the way…lets get to Jesus shall we?
We are in week 4 of our 5 week Easter series titled Going Public where we look through the gospels and unpack people that were living in obscurity, forgotten or outcasted by society, hiding from fear, or hidden from view. We will learn their stories, see how they were “hiding” and how encountering Jesus would change their status from hiding to hollering to hoping.
In week one we spoke about Blind Bartimaeus and how he had cast aside a life with no hope to a life filled with hope.
In week two, Pastor Jean Luc spoke about the woman with the flow of blood and how desperation can be used like a tool, like a catalyst to bring about hope. It is the desperate that are willing to try anything. Desperation is more than a state of being, it can be a spiritual discipline in our lives.
Last week we covered the story of the Sinful Woman with the Alabaster Jar, and how understanding who Jesus is, that he is more than a teacher, a prophet, or a rabbi, will change the way you honor him. Jesus is the son of God and knowing this helps you honor him and hearts that honor Jesus are filled with hope.
Today is Palm Sunday, it’s called that because this is the day that Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey, knowing full well what lies before him: that he will be accused, tried, and sent to his execution.
Jesus will choose to lay down his life, driven by his purpose to bridge the gap that was created by sin and death, and compelled by his love for humanity, his love for us, his love for you.
It’s called Palm Sunday because as he rode into Jerusalem, Jews would wave palm branches, lay down their coats, and palm leaves as he entered into the city.
The palm leaf was the symbol of Judas Maccabees - a freedom fighter - 150 years before Jesus was born. Judas “the Hammer” Maccabees fought against the Seleucid Empire and took back the temple at Jerusalem.
Judas Maccabeus miraculously led Israel into victory over the Syrian occupation and upon their victory the crowds celebrated by plucking palm branches off of trees and waving them ecstatically. An ocean of waving branches did more to capture the essence of that moment than anything else. Children and grandparents, soldiers and civilians, vinedressers and stonemasons rushed into Jerusalem waving palm branches; the picture was unforgettable.
In fact, so memorable was the moment of freedom that Judas “The Hammer” stamped an image of a palm branch into their coins, symbolizing victory for the Jews over the occupational force. The palm branch from that point forward was minted onto the temple coinage; a reminder of that unforgettable day.
So fast forward about 180 years, and here is Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, they believe He will be the one to free them from the tyranny of Rome...so they wave palm branches and lay them at his feet as a symbolic representation saying “you are our next Judas Maccabees... fight for us! Save us!”
But where does their confidence come from? Why do they believe Jesus could free them from Rome? Who do they think this guy really is? Was he just a man or was he something more?
One of the earliest adopters of this “more than a man” theory was a man named John the Baptist. He was a preacher / prophet that believed his mission was to herald the news of the coming one. John believed that the Savior of the World was on his way, and his job was to get people prepared for it. And when Jesus shows up to the river he is baptising people at, he points over to him and announces that Jesus is the messiah. And just like the crowd that will wave palm branches as Jesus enters Jerusalem, John believes Jesus is the Christ.
But when John the Baptist gets thrown in prison, there is a moment where he doubts if Jesus really was the promised Messiah. John sent his disciples to deliver a message from him, a question that had been rummaging around in his mind.
Matthew 11:2–5 NIV84
2 When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples 3 to ask him, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” 4 Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 5 The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.
Jesus response here reminds us of an important truth. Christ doesn’t ask us to believe in belief. This is so very important. For many religious people, they ask you to believe in belief.
“Why should I believe?” “Just because. Because that’s what faith is.”
They want you to have faith before faith comes alive in you. But thats not what Jesus does. Jesus doesn’t just ask you to have faith in him just because. On the contrary, Jesus says, look what I have done. Look at the evidence of my work. Look at the blind, the lame, the diseased, the deaf and the dead; all are healed. Jesus is not asking you to believe in belief.
He asks us to believe in the evidence of what he has done.
Look at the evidence. In other words, come see for yourself.
When was the last time you used the words unbelievable? “Wow, that was unbelievable.” Hopefully the last time you used this word was to describe something sensational or mind-boggling. Something other worldly. The first time I remember thinking something was unbelievable was the first time I went to Disneyland. I remember seeing the Disney castle for the first time and thinking, how could this be real? I felt the same way looking at the grand canyon. Or the Hogwarts castle. I felt the same way, watching my first live magician show in Las Vegas. Watching David Cooperfield levitate in front of my eyes is a feeling I remember vividly. Keely introduced me to a short film made by free diver Guillaume Nery called One Breath Around the World. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend you take 12 minutes out of your day, dim the lights, turn up the sound cause the soundtrack is part of the immersion, and get lost in this UNBELIEVABLE film.
There is that word again. Unbelievable. Belief is a funny thing isn’t it? It’’s not tangible, but so very real. You can’t really add to it, you can’t subtract from it. It’s not something we think about everyday, but it is often the foundation of our decision making and that makes what we believe vital to our existence. Belief is hard to change once we have made up our minds about it. If you are a die hard Buccs fan, you didn’t need Tom Brady to convince you that the Buccs were the best team in the world. If a parent believes their kid is perfect and incapable of doing wrong, no parent teacher conference is going to convince them otherwise.
When I was in kindergarten, I was totally infatuated with all things martial arts, ninjas, karate, punching, kicking, swords, shurikens, you name it. If it had to do with the ancient art of kicking butt, I was all about it. My dad had bought me this dope, midnight blue bomber jacket, with an embroidered dragon on the back. Man I loved that jacket. When I put it on, it was like putting on a cape and cowl. I instantly felt 100 times cooler, and 100 times more bad ass. I felt so bad a in fact, that one morning the teacher had the kids get into a line, some kid made the poor choice of trying to cut me in line. Well needless to say, you don’t cut the kid in line wearing a jacket with a dragon embroidered on the back. I quickly dispatched this villain with a quick punch to face. Obviously, I got in trouble and I may have embellished the kid cutting in line part…he may have just been trying to get in line, but my bad assery could not be stopped. When the teacher called my parents and explained that THEIR precious child punched another kid and it was entirely MY fault, my dad wouldn’t listen despite the evidence and promptly unenrolled me from the school. Im pretty sure that was also the last day I wore that jacket.
My dad believed the best about me despite the evidence because belief is hard to change. It’s hard to change, but not impossible. The first time I was arrested for being with a friend that got caught stealing at JC Penny, changed my dad’s belief that I was an innocent kid with 100% pure motives. Seeing their son in handcuffs can be a defining moment for a parent, and my dad knew I wasnt innocent anymore.
I’m trying to paint a picture here about belief and how difficult it is for belief to change. And this is especially true about someones belief in God. Maybe you know someone that has a difficult time believing in the existence of God. Maybe their faith has been rocked by some tragic event in their life. Maybe there faith has just wanned over time or taken a beating through constant life disappointments. Maybe it’s not them, but maybe this person is you. If that is the case, I am believing that this sermon will help in that department.
We are going to be looking at someone whos faith in Jesus was rocked, and how he went from believing to disbelieving to believing again. We are going to be looking at someone that went from hiding to hollering to hoping.
Our reading will start in Luke 22, but before then let me setup what is happening here.
After about three years of ministry, healing the sick, walking on water, bringing the dead to life, casting out demons and speaking with powerful authority, Jesus has given ample evidence that he is more than just an incredible teacher or even prophet. Jesus claims that he is the son of God and the one true Messiah. The ones that are closet to him, his 12 disciples had the amazing opportunity to see these miracles close up and first hand and they believed Jesus’ claim, but none were as vocal as Jesus’ most impulsive disciple, Peter. Peter was the first to confess that Jesus was the Christ. Peter would be a part of Jesus inner circle, participating in more miracles than any of the other disciples. Peter would be the one to walk on water. Peter would be one of the three to watch Jesus transfigured on a high mountain. Peter would be the one to boldly claim, while others fall away from Jesus, he would follow Jesus to the grave. Needless to say, Peter believed Jesus was God.
At this point in the scriptures, Jesus has entered Jerusalem and is moments from being crucified. He has had his final supper with his disciples, instituted the new covenant, and now prepares himself for the torture and execution that will come in the morning. One of the 12 disciples, Judas Iscariot, will betray Jesus. The temple guard will come to Jesus in the night and cart him away for judgement.
Luke 22:54–62 NIV84
54 Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. 55 But when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. 56 A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.” 57 But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said. 58 A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” “Man, I am not!” Peter replied. 59 About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.” 60 Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” 62 And he went outside and wept bitterly.
Peter goes from boldly proclaiming that Jesus is the Christ to hiding in fear because Peter fears for his life. It’s easy to stand with God when things are good, ain’t it? It’s easy to confess that God is good when life seems to be going your way. But anyone that has gone through difficulty knows, when the crap hits the fan, standing up and saying that God is good becomes exponentially more difficult.
Peter denies Jesus here, and although no one wants to applaud his cowardice, it is easy to see why he does it. If we can deny God when we get sick or when things don’t go exactly as planned, we can empathize how Peter would have denied Jesus when his life was in jeopardy.
Unfortunately, Peters story doesn’t miraculously get better here. His hiding will continue and his hiding will get worse. His hope in Jesus, his hope in a savior will crumble and disappear. His once unshakable belief in Jesus as the Christ will come crashing down, when the unbelievable happens. Jesus will die.
Luke 23:44–46 NIV84
44 It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45 for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.
Make no mistake here friends. Jesus was dead and more importantly, Peter believed it. Peter saw it. Jesus was gone. His hope had died. His unshakeable belief had changed. That is the story for many of us. We once believed so strongly. We once had this child like faith in God. We were once so certain that God would not fail us, but then life does what life does and it battered us, it beat us, and the enemy used that battering to convince us that God was dead in our lives. We went from hoping to hiding ourselves.
Peter gives up on this faith thing and goes back to doing what he knows to do. He goes back to his life as a fisherman. Pretty anti-climatic right? I mean how do you go from watching miracles happen on the daily, to just fishing again? Peter goes from divinely assigned back to the daily grind.
When we lose hope in God, we also lose our purpose. When our belief in God gets shaken, life becomes pointless. We just live. We eat, we sleep, we work, and we hustle. Like Peter, we go from being divinely assigned to living the daily grind.
But something happens. Three days of grinding and hears something. Three days of hiding and then he hears commotion from Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Jesus’ mother.
“Jesus is alive. We went to the tomb and the tomb was empty. Two men those clothes gleamed like lighting told us he had risen!”
Luke 24:11–12 NIV84
11 But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. 12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.
You hear that? The disciples - the same guys that saw Jesus do all sorts of miracles - did not believe the women because what they said sounded ludicrous to them. They did not believe. They weren’t even around. It’s not like they setup camp in front of the tomb waiting for the new Jesus to drop. They STOPPED BELIEVING. Peter races over to the tomb and picks up the linen strips that were used to embalm Jesus and wonders, what the heck is going on. Peter physically goes and touches them. He had to see for himself because he stopped believing and what have we learned. Belief can be hard to change. Even after the testimonies and physically touching the linens, Peter still isn’t convinced.
But that was all about to change.
Luke 24:36–39 NIV84
36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”
It is in that moment, as their once dead friend stood alive in their presence, that they went from hiding, to hoping. Peter sees for himself. In sure he reaches over and touches the once dead Jesus, maybe he embraces Jesus in a hug, puts his fingers into the scars on his hands and feet and realizes that this unbelievable thing is happening. It is no small event that changes Peter’s disbelief to belief again.
For many of us, we have heard the stories. We have friends that have shared testimonies of how Jesus has changed their lives. Maybe we have seen how Jesus has changed marriages, and families for the better. We may have seen the broken mended, and the lost found again, and if you haven’t I urge you to sit down with one of our grace empire leaders and ask them to tell you their story. You will hear powerful stories of how God has impacted their lives. And although all these stories and experiences are fantastic, nothing will change your belief until you experience the resurrection power of Jesus yourself. And just like Jesus said to John the Baptist, Jesus isn’t asking you to believe in belief, he is asking you to believe in the evidence of his divinity.
You may have a need that only God can answer. You may have a prayer that only God can move. You have a problem that only God can solve and let me tell you, God is up to the task. God is able to do anything. I cannot promise the outcome of your prayer, but I can promise you this. God wants to show himself to you and God wants to change your disbelief to belief. God wants to prove that their is no person, or entity, or being more powerful and wonderful than he is. God wants to shake the very foundations of your belief, just as he did for Peter, just as he did for me, and just as he wants to do for you.
My challenge to you is this…come and see. I want you to metaphorically, run to the tomb and touch the linens yourself. I want you to metaphorically put your fingers on the scars of Jesus and we do this by asking God into our hearts and asking for his miracle working power to invade our very souls. As a child of God you have a right to ask God to help. Help us Lord.
As we close I want to turn our attention back to Palm Sunday.
Matthew 21:8–9 NIV84
8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest!”
Do you guys know what Hosanna means? Hosanna means save us! So as we close today, I want you to take your deepest concern right now and I want you to say Hosanna right now. Save us Lord and show us the evidence of your love and change our disbelief to belief.
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