June 28, 2010 David Balzer

Luke 22:54-23:49: Friday’s Failure?

Poor old Frank Farina. He’s the coach of the Socceroos. And before last year’s World Cup soccer qualifier against Uruguay, he was ON TOP OF THE WORLD. Or at least on top of Australia.

His team was full of some of the highest paid athletes in the world. Harry Kewell, Mark Viduka, Paul Okon. He had the confidence of Australia, and more importantly – the confidence of the players.

They won all their lead-up matches convincingly. Including a tournament win over the world Cup champions France. And all Australia said, “We’ll stand by you. Through thick and thin.”

And the last hurdle was to beat Uruguay. It was a double-header. One game in Australia, and one in Uruguay. The Socceroos won the first game 1-0 at the MCG.

The following morning they flew out to Montevideo, and five days later, they played the second match. The game started at 6am Monday morning Australian-time. And it seemed like half the country was watching. Instant soccer fans. Because everyone loves a winner.

Uruguay scored the first goal. No matter – the OVERALL scores were still level. All they needed was a goal. But try as they might, no goal came.

And then Uruguay scored two late goals. And Australia had missed the World Cup again. The players, and Frank Farina, were distraught. We saw the pictures of Tony Vidmar, still on the field, crying.

In fact, all over Australia, people were upset. What a terrible way to start a Monday morning! And NOONE was a soccer fan anymore.

And T-shirt makers were left with thousands of commemorative soccer shirts that noone wanted to buy. Because noone likes a loser.

The calls for Farina’s sacking started even before he arrived home. The press were after his head. He was appointed to take Australia to the World Cup. And he’d failed. He had to go.

Australians have got no time for failures.

We love WINNERS. Doesn’t matter whether they’re sportsmen, or singers, or actors, or even Winter Olympic Games gold-medallists. If they WIN/ we LOVE them. But we’re abandon them faster than rats jumping off a sinking ship/ once they lose. Or fail.

My guess is/ The Apostle Peter would qualify as an honorary Australian.

He loved the SUCCESSFUL Jesus. The one who healed people, and forgave sins, and who promised to bring in a new kingdom.

And it wasn’t like he didn’t KNOW who Jesus WAS. Back in Lk 9 when Jesus asks who Peter thinks Jesus is. Peter answers, “You are the Christ. The Son of the Living God”

And straight away, Jesus tells him that he’s going to suffer. Be rejected. Killed. And then raised to life on the third day.

And then, he tells Peter what that means for HIM.

(Luke 9:23-26 NIV)  “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. …{26} If anyone is ASHAMED of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

So Peter KNEW. He knew what was in store for Jesus. And he knew what HE must do. He knew what the consequences were if he DIDN’T stick by Jesus.

And he even SAID he’d stick by Jesus. Typical big mouth. Lk 22. Jesus warns him, and Peter comes back, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to .”

But in the end. For whatever reason. Peter denied Jesus. At the moment when Jesus’ failure looked inevitable. Peter turned his back. Pretended he didn’t know him. Not once, but three times.

And he even did it IN THE SIGHT OF JESUS. Did you notice v61 of Ch 22? I’ll read from v59.

(Luke 22:59-62 NIV)  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.

Luke’s the only Gospel that mentions it. Jesus was WATCHING Peter as he denied him. As he was ashamed of him. Imagine that!

Perhaps Peter was even watching Jesus as the words came out of his mouth. Perhaps he was watching/ as the guards mocked Jesus. As they beat him, and spat on him.

And with each blow, Peter’s resolve drains away.

He’d promised that he’d even DIE for Jesus. He’d been the only disciple who’d followed this far. Right into the courtyard of the high priest. He’d been the bravest of them all.

But in the end/ it all counted for nothing. Because when it mattered/ Peter’s courage deserted him. He was ashamed of what looked like Jesus’ failure.

And so Peter failed too. A terrible start to the most terrible day in history. And as Jesus watched/ Peter’s words would have wounded him just as badly as any whip, or punch, or thorn.

If you’re anything like me, these verses cut you like a knife. Because you’ve done exactly what Peter did.

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: …{62} And he went outside and wept bitterly.

You’ve denied Jesus. You’ve either SAID as much. Or perhaps it’s what you HAVEN’T said. Someone puts down Jesus, and you keep quiet. Same thing, really.

Or else/ you’ve said it by your ACTIONS. You’ve KNOWN how Jesus wants you to live. But you’ve deliberately turned your back on him. You’ve done EXACTLY what YOU want to do. Knowing that Jesus is looking straight at you. Knowing that He’s Lord of the Universe, you refuse to let him be Lord of You.

How can I be so confident that YOU’VE done that? Because EVERYONE’s done it. We’re ALL failures. We’re ALL Peters. We’re ALL Frank Farinas. Rom 3:23 says, “All are failures. All have sinned, and fallen short of God’s glory”.

Which is pretty depressing news, isn’t it?

Except that’s not all! That’s not the end of the story. And it’s not the end of Peter’s story either.

It’s not the end for PETER. Because it wasn’t the end for JESUS.

Despite the events of that most terrible day in history. Despite the farce of a trial. Despite the betrayal and the injustice. Despite the hatred, and the beating, and the mocking smugness of the religious and political leaders.

Despite the piercing pain of thorns and whips, the agony of nails smashed through bone and flesh. Despite the dull ache of exhaustion and breathlessness as Jesus hung on the cross, and finally gave up his Spirit.

Despite ALL of the events of that day. IT WAS NO FAILURE. It wasn’t the FINISH. It was EXACTLY what Jesus knew was GOING to happen. It was exactly what His Father had planned from before the creation of the world.

Jesus chose to hang there on the cross because he LOVED Peter. DESPITE what he’d done. Jesus chose to be killed like a sacrificial lamb to take the guilt of the world upon himself. To take all its failures, and blackness, and rebellion, and to wipe them away. Peters, and yours, and mine.

John the Baptist knew it. He said about Jesus the first time he saw him. “There goes Jesus. The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

Jesus’ that day/ was EXACTLY what Peter-the-failure needed. Jesus’ is exactly what WE need. David-the-failure, Robert-the-failure.

Geoff Bullock-the-failure. Geoff Bullock is probably the most successful Christian song-writer in Australia. His songs are sung in churches around the world. His CD’s have reached gold and platinum status. He started “Hillsong” music festival.

But at the height of popularity/ his life fell apart. He failed. He sinned. His church drew back from him. His marriage fell apart. He was devastated. He withdrew from public life.

He said recently in an interview with Gordon Moyes: “I struggled with a sense of failure for years. The higher I climbed, the lower my self-esteem. The greater the success, the more profound the cloud of failure. My life finally shattered around me. The success had gone. I had fallen from the heights. I was publicly exposed as having failed. I WAS a failure. I was sure that everyone knew. If they didn’t, they were certainly going to find out.

Jesus faithfully walked with me while I searched for a way to resolve the crisis. I searched with all the strength I could find. I received A+ for effort. I was convinced the only way was to try harder. I worked harder to believe what I should believe. But none of it worked. I failed again.

What happened? Did I find Him? Wrong! wrong, wrong! HE FOUND ME.”

Geoff finally understood that the work of the Christian life is GOD’s work, not his. All his striving to get to God was actually in the opposite direction. Because no matter how hard he tried, he always failed. Geoff had finally understood GRACE.

He wrote the song “O the mercy of God” about this time.

Oh the mercy of God, the glory of grace –

that you chose to redeem us. To forgive and restore.

And you call us your children, chosen in Him

to be holy and blameless to the glory of God.

Oh the riches of grace, the depths of his love

In him is redemption the forgiveness of sin

You called us as righteous – predestined in him.

For the praise of his glory included in Christ.

Geoff finally understood that when it comes to Christians, FAILURES ONLY NEED APPLY.

Many employers have PERFORMANCE-BASED INCENTIVES for staff. “Sell 3 million washers, and you’ll earn a trip to Hawaii”. “Sell 150 widgets, and we’ll give you shares in the company”

But there’s no performance-based scheme in following Jesus. He hasn’t come to scout and sign up the talent – the best-looking, best-behaved, best-connected. In Mk 2 he says that just like a doctor, he’s got no interest in healthy people. He hasn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.

In Lk 19, he says to Zacchaeus that he has come to seek and save …the LOST.

And that’s just as well for Peter. And for you. And for me.

In the end Peter DID recover. He didn’t continue to FAIL. Because of the of Jesus the Lamb/ God forgave his failure, and restored him again.

After His resurrection Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do your love me?” As Peter answered each question, one of the failures was wiped out.

Then Jesus challenged him afresh, “Well, feed my sheep.” The failure was forgotten and the fresh challenge was given.

And Peter rose to the challenge. He became one of the boldest of witnesses for Jesus in the brand new church. He was actually the ROCK on which Jesus built the church.

In fact/ on Sunday we’ll look at one of his sermons about Easter. From Acts Ch 2.

So take heart. If you saw YOURSELF in that courtyard that Friday morning. Denying Jesus – even while he looked at you. Take heart. Because he dealt with our failures. Because of his , God will forgive your failure. Just like he did for Peter.

And that’s what’s so GOOD about Good Friday!

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