HOT TOPICS 2013, PART 3
(You can find a recording of this sermon here.)
This Touching Base is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside of the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build healthy community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.
This past Sunday was part 3 of our Hot Topics series for 2013. We have one more Sunday to go, when we will welcome Dr. Andy Bannister speaking on the issue of faith and science. After that, we are jumping into 1 Corinthians, looking at the first four chapters. A series entitled Botox Church. I would encourage you to read and re-read the first four chapters in preparation for this series. In part 3 of our current series we looked at the issue of failure and specifically how Christ responded to the failure of the disciples when they all denied him.
Key texts: John 20: 18,19,20; 21:1-14; Luke 24:13-35
Big Idea: Our response to people experiencing failure can make the difference between overcoming or being overcome.
Before you jump into the main text answer the following questions:
Have you ever found yourself in a situation where failure was handled poorly?
Sometimes in the church we crucify those that fall. Once the news hit the street that you did...... you are a marked woman or man for life! Labeled, categorized, and shelved. The person who has fallen ends up avoiding that group, that church or that relationship because it seems like all they want to do is dagger you to death.
Other times we sweep it under the rug and say or do nothing, and let the person just carry on with a light slap on the wrist. We certainly have seen that scenario many times in the media. Spiritual leaders allowed to carry on in leadership as though nothing has happened, yet guilty of moral failure.
What is it about our makeup that can cause us to come down too hard or too soft?
Look at the text- John 20:19,20.
Note who is not there. See v.24. You might want to read the second group encounter (20:24-31) for context.
What was the dominant emotion in John 20:19,20?
What other words would you use to describe this scene?
How do you account for the fact that the writer does not mention that the disciples were afraid of Jesus? Note the fear they had of the Jews, but when Jesus appears it says that they were overjoyed.
Explanation: When I read this, I wondered why they might not be afraid of Jesus. You see the last time they saw Jesus as a group was when they denied him and left him to hang out to dry. They were all like a cat on a hot tin roof - gone! Now, Jesus appears… the one they betrayed, the one they walked away from stands before them. Is this their day of reckoning?
Ever miserably failed someone and then had to face them again? What was that like? What made the difference between being fearful to face that person vs. having humble confidence to go face to face?
My observations of this text and what happened previously, would suggest to me that they knew Jesus was not coming at them with a hammer to beat them to a pulp but with grace to help them overcome. Read John 20:18 and note that Mary Magdalene encountered Jesus before the group of disciples did. Read Luke 24 and note that the two disciples on the road to Emmaus and Peter (1 Cor 15:5) all saw Jesus before our scene in John 20:19,20. My hunch is that they knew Jesus wasn’t coming at them with a get-even kind of attitude but with grace, love and a heart to see them restored. Mary, the two disciples on the road to Emmaus and Peter would have known and likely communicated that fact before they (the larger group) had encountered Jesus!
Jesus the head of the Church models a posture that enabled the disciples not to be overcome by their failure but to overcome their failure. We see this so dramatically demonstrated in the life of Peter. His failure, denial of Christ gets “special” mention in Scripture. But so does his restoration. Note in John 21 the BBQ Jesus prepares for the disciples. This is a powerful scene of healing, restoration and hope. Table fellowship indicated intimate relations among those who shared it. You ate with your friends, not with those you despised! Jesus is modeling for Peter (and the rest of the disciples) his desire for them to overcome, not to be overcome by their failure. Then we see Jesus reinstating Peter in front of the other disciples in John 21:15-19.
Jesus models several great principles of restoration in these narratives. Discuss and pray about these.
Jesus moves towards those that have failed. He gets in their space. He did this with Peter one-on-one, he did this with the larger group as well. Restoration and healing of those who have fallen, often is most powerfully experienced through loving relationship, not another 12-step program of recovery (even thought that certainly has its place).
Jesus spoke the language of love that made sense. He barbecued some fish and prepared some fresh bread. In that culture that was the language of love, of acceptance and friendship. As we seek to heal those in our midst we need to understand what language of love is most appropriate. We are all guilty of saying stupid, insensitive things to people going through tough times. What best communicates? Maybe words should be our final option.
He reinstates them. We see this in 20:22,23 and in John 21:15-19. In other words, people who fail can have hope that they can be used by God again. Peter rose up from the ashes of failure to become a key leader in the New Testament Church. The other disciples also rose up and fulfilled key roles.
As a church, let’s follow Christ’s lead in helping people overcome their failure, not be overcome by it!
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