Standing on the Promises

Nathan George, Speaker

Luke 24:34 | June 9 - Sunday Evening,

Sunday Evening,
June 9
Standing on the Promises | Luke 24:34
Nathan George, Speaker

This evening we’ll be looking at Luke, chapter 24, verse 34.  It reads:  “The Lord has risen indeed and has appeared to Simon.” 

Several weeks ago we looked at this verse and tonight I am preaching from the very same short passage.  As you may know, there are several ways to approach preaching.  Exegetical preaching, that is to explain, expound, and bring a passage to bear is what we’re used to for the most part here.  There’s also the topical approach, which is to take a certain subject and trace it through the Scriptures.

The approach I took with this passage a few weeks ago was to be devotional in nature, you may remember that.  We explored Peter’s failures, his doubts.  We also took time to meditate on the Lord’s kindness to consider Peter, to appear to him, to encourage him.  He appeared to Peter.  He knew his weaknesses, his needs.  He appeared to Peter.  So I emphasized that.

Usually we are assigned passages to preach.  It’s in a certain series and it’s said, “Nathan, you preach this.  Tom, you preach this,” and so forth.  This time they asked us to pick our passage and this passage came back to mind.

I hope it’s helpful again.  I hope the last time was as well.  But if nothing else, perhaps we can learn that any particular passage of Scripture can speak to us in slightly different ways.  Now that doesn’t mean that there are contradictory meanings of a passage, but it does mean that we might expound upon and apply the passage in different ways.

Now truthfully I am truthfully I am more comfortable with exegetical sermons because the text then tells you what to emphasize.  Yet from time to time, to meditate devotionally and to make some biblical connections, is valuable.  At least it’s valuable for my heart; I hope it is for yours.

So while I centered on Peter’s doubts and the Lord’s kindness last time, this time I want to explore with you the Lord’s character as a promise keeper, a powerful promise keeper as the basis then for Peter’s sprint to the tomb.  In fact, that passage, just a few verses earlier, could have been my main passage but it will serve as our subtext.

So if you would, just flip back just a few verses, Luke chapter 24, starting at verse 8.  We read this.

“And they remembered His words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.  Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women who were with them who told these things to the apostles, but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.  But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.”

Something made Peter rise up and run, to stoop, to look, to marvel.  This little phrase that we’re going to explore, “Jesus has risen indeed and has appeared to Simon,” packs a punch.  At least it has for me; I hope it has for you, or will.

So like before, it will be our jumping off point and our landing point.  Last time I focused mainly on Jesus appeared to Peter, the last half of that phrase, so I took a very short passage and cut it in half.  This time we’re looking at the first half of the phrase, “Jesus has risen indeed.”  Jesus has fulfilled His promise.

We get very used to that statement.  We say it every Easter.  Right?  He is risen, He is risen indeed.  We’re very used to it.  But this made Peter stand up and run.  We get to see that Peter’s gut reaction was to go check it out, to trust, maybe to stand on some promises that he all of a sudden remembered, to sprint to the tomb.

Let’s pray briefly and then we’ll begin.

Father, we do ask that You would open Your Word to us, not a hard phrase to understand, but I pray that You would make it alive to us by Your Spirit, use it to edify us, to grow us up, to see Christ once again, to marvel and to love Him.  In His name we pray.  Amen.   

What carries you through difficult times?  What makes you hang on?  What keeps hope alive, hoping against hope?  What changes your outlook to the point that you actually reach out, that you change actions, that you continue, that you make hard decisions in faith, that you act?  What drives your will to keep going in a hard time?

I have to admit that as I get older I feel a little less confident in my own decisions, in my own abilities.  But as that’s happening, I’m more confident that the Lord will use those things for His glory.  It’s a funny thing.  I become more insecure about my own decisions but I’m more confident that the Lord accomplishes His will through His people, His servants.  He accomplishes His means and His goals.  I lean on His promises more and more.  Therefore I press ahead, I take on more, I accept bigger responsibilities and difficult tasks, all the while feeling less like I can handle it but feeling more and more like the Lord can handle it.  And He does.

Now I won’t repeat the last sermon except to say, and to remind us, that when Peter failed by being a turncoat, a denier, it probably did not serve to make him more confident in himself.  At some length we explored his potential doubt, his grief.  We see that as he runs out, runs away from the place where he denied Christ.

Yet we also know, just read, that Peter ran to the tomb.  Why did he not run and hide when the women said He is risen?  Why did he not run and hide in his shame and agony?  Why didn’t he just buckle under extreme lack of self-confidence?  Why did he run to find the man that he had disappointed in His greatest hour of need?  Why did he sprint to find the person he failed?

Now he lost the race to John, we find that out in the book of John, but nonetheless he ran.  Maybe on the run his confidence was shaken; we’ll never know perhaps.  But we do see that his will was driven to act and go to the person, the only person in the universe who could revive his broken soul.  It’s evident from this wonderful story that he despaired of his own ability and threw himself on the mercy of Christ.  Why?  Why?

Well, I have two answers and one application point, and that will serve as our outline.  The two answers are this:  Number one, Christ had showed Himself to be merciful, powerful, and truthful.  Christ had showed Himself to be merciful, powerful, and truthful.  That’s answer number one.  Answer number two is Christ had promised to gain victory over death.  Number two, Christ had promised to gain victory over death.

Then our application, point number three, that’s the shortest, is this:  Because Christ is merciful, powerful, truthful, and a promise keeper, Peter’s reaction should be our reaction.

So let’s jump in.  Point number one, Christ had shown Himself to be merciful, powerful, and truthful.

What did Peter know about Jesus?  It’s an important question because what you know about somebody dramatically impacts the way you interact with them.  If you know that someone’s always a pushover, well, you may just keep asking for money, for forgiveness, for extra time.  If your teacher is just a really, really nice person, perhaps you can get an extension on your homework.

I attended a Missouri Synod Lutheran grade school growing up in the little town of Murfreesboro, Illinois and all my teachers were very nice.  Except for my seventh and eighth grade teacher; he was very exacting, nice, but exacting.  Well, in previous grades I could get extensions, I could explain my excuse, and almost any excuse was accepted.  One day I came with a fairly ridiculous story about why I didn’t have my homework and that it had been destroyed. 

This morning you got a story about chickens, tonight you get one about a rooster.  My parents had chickens, and that was fine, we had a fence, Kevin, and they stayed in the fence.  But they also had a rooster and that rooster would not stay in the fence.  That was not so fine because that rooster thought it was a guard dog and we lived down a long country drive and every afternoon after getting off the bus I would drag my feet through that dusty gravel and dread the last 20 yards up to the house because of that rooster.  There I was, a tall, gangly, skinny little kid with a classic red canvas backpack, sort of kicking the gravel, and it was my backpack full of papers that I was supposed to fill out.

By the way, how is that you can spend eight hours in grade school and still have homework?  I’ve never understood that.  But that’s beside the point.

But anyway, I would come over the knoll in our gravel drive and that rooster would eye me.  That rooster could strike fear into my skinny little heart.  Have you ever been spurred by a rooster?  It hurts.  It will cut through jeans.  It will draw blood.  It’s just really painful.  And it’ll scare you half to death, too.  Something about a bird charging you just strikes fear in your heart.

So I developed my best bullfighting technique that allowed me to enter the house unscathed and it also got me out of doing my homework.  So I would hold my red backpack off to one side like the best Spanish matador de toros and slowly walk up to that rooster and he would eye me, he would start doing his little thing, you know.  As I would get closer I would sort of inch, and as soon as he started to charge, back up, throw the pack and bolt, and he would attack the pack.

So, yes, you know, I’d go to my teacher.  Yes, ma’am, it’s true, my rooster attacked me and destroyed my homework.  She was so nice she gave me another sheet to fill out.  I told her the truth, though, and I didn’t mind because she was nice.  If you know your father to be unpredictable, you hesitate to ask him a question.  If you know your mother to be angry, you avoid her.  If you know your children to be irresponsible, you don’t entrust the new car to them.  What you know of a person affects how you interact with them.

What did Peter know about Jesus?  Think with me just for a few moments of what Peter had witnessed.  Matthew chapter 8.  You don’t have to turn there, just think through the life of Christ, Matthew chapter 8.  Jesus interacted with and even touched lepers.  Jesus said to a centurion, a Roman no less, that’s sort of like saying a Michigander, about his sick servant, “I will come and heal him.” 

Matthew 9.  Jesus told a paralytic that his sins were forgiven, to get up and walk.  He healed blind men, mute men.  He brought back to life a woman’s daughter even after people had laughed at Him, showing that He was patient and kind.  He calmed seas.  He fed thousands of people.  He healed hurting people.  He dealt decisively with demons. 

Of course, those miracles serve to fulfill prophecy and substantiate Jesus as the Messiah, but don’t miss in the shadow of that great theological truth, that these two chapters, chapter 8 and 9, are just full of the mercy of Jesus Christ.  He was powerful and merciful and certainly this was not lost on Peter.

So it may be slightly pedantic, but it’s worth saying that Peter didn’t come to those hours and days when Christ was in the tomb as a blank slate.  He had experienced and seen the mercy of his Lord.

Also, do you remember the moment when Peter walked on water?  You know the story well, Matthew chapter 14.  We read this account: 

“And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea.  And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!”” 

Of course, Christ said, ““Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”  And Peter answered Him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to You on the water.”  He said, “Come.”  So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.  But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out His hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.  And those in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.””

Peter was no stranger to failure, but he was also no stranger to the power and the mercy of Jesus.  But also notice that he was no stranger to the clear, blunt words of His Lord, “O you of little faith.” 

One of the strange things about Nashville, Tennessee is that everyone says you’re amazing all the time.  Sometimes I’ve joked we’ve moved from Amazingville to Normalville.  It’s, there’s just a vibe in Nashville that says, “oh, you’re great.”  There’s a lot of backslapping happening in Nashville.  I think on the surface people want to be encouraging, but underlying that sometimes there’s an “I’m nice to you because who knows when I’ll need you to be nice to me in the music industry.”  So it can sort of edge towards being untruthful.

But what you begin to crave as a musician is truthfulness.  Tell me what’s not good so that I can actually grow, actually learn, actually change, and when you find that person that will tell you the truth, you want to go back to them again and again and again with your new song, with your new idea, get some real feedback.  There’s a lot of backslapping there, but it’s not true with Jesus.  Is it?

O you of little faith.  He says it like it is.  We could catalog many times that Jesus seemed to just go out of His way to say things in a way that are sort of a dig, a little jarring, arresting. 

Can you imagine Jesus Christ being from the South?  “Oh, bless y’all’s hearts,” as He got into the boat.  “That was truly a scary storm after all.  I understand how you could have felt overwhelmed.  It’s okay.  Next time just know that I’m here for you.” 

No, just, “O you of little faith.” 

In Matthew chapters 4 through 7, that’s the Sermon on the Mount, 5 through 7, and 10 through 25 what we find is Jesus’ teaching.  He’s often blunt, sometimes offensive, jarring.  He says hard things.  The Old Testament law was difficult to keep and He raises the bar in the Sermon on the Mount by applying it to the inclinations of the heart.  In other words, Jesus doesn’t pull punches.  Jesus was nothing if not truthful.

Peter entered one of his darkest hours by denying his Lord.  We explored the doubts that could have erupted in his mind, but I think something was at war within him and that something was the memory and the knowledge of Jesus the healer, Jesus the merciful, Jesus the powerful, Jesus the truthful, the patient. Jesus the man who saved him from drowning.

I think it’s likely that Peter was drowning again, this time in despair after denying his Lord, but when those women said, “He’s alive,” I think sparks went off in his heart.  I think he had good reason to hope that Jesus would take his hand and stop him from drowning again.  He ran to see.

He could probably guess that Jesus would have some hard words for him, at least that has been Jesus’ habit in the past, and He did.  Those hard words became, “Do you love Me?”  And those words hurt Peter.  But Peter would also remember and now a friend, a Savior, a Lord who heals, restores, and makes all things new.

So I have a question before we move on.  Does your failure, does your sin, cause you to be bitter and hide from your church, your friends, your leaders, your God?  Perhaps ask yourself that question.  I want to come back that in the end.  When you sin, it’s not a matter of if, when you sin, does that cause you to pull back from people?  Back from church?  Back from your Lord?  Or do you take that metaphorical run to the tomb?

So point number one is Christ has showed Himself to be merciful, powerful, truthful, and Peter knew it.  Jesus is, after all, a friend for sinners.

Point number two.  That was point number one.  Did I say one?  It doesn’t matter.

Christ had promised to gain victory over death.

When Simon Peter heard from the women that Jesus had risen, certainly he just, we see it by his actions, his heart was pounding, he began to run.  He could be asking, “Could it be?  Is it real?  It can’t be.  Yes, it has to be.  I remember when zeal consumed Him.  Ah, those coins went a-flying as He was turning tables and He made that whip.  Wasn’t He talking nonsense when He was talking about rebuilding the temple in three days?  No, it’s not nonsense.  It’s got to be true.  He must have been talking about Himself.”

In John 2 we read this:

“So the Jews said to Him, “What sign do You show us for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”  The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?”  But He was speaking about the temple of his body.  When therefore He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.”

When Peter heard these women, he must have thought, “A ha, yes, He gave us all the clues.  Those blessed women must be telling the truth.  Isn’t this the Son of God who promised I will never leave or forsake you?  Isn’t this the Son of God who fulfilled all those promises, the lame walk, the deaf hear, the mute speak, the dead rise?  Isn’t this the Son of God who promised to go and prepare a place for us?”

The disciples were saying the Lord has risen indeed.  Truly, in reality, does this mean that every promise comes true?  Of course, Peter would have been justified in remembering that he also said, “Everyone who acknowledges Me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God.  But the one who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God.”

But didn’t He also say, “And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven”?  And didn’t He also promise, “I am the bread of life.  Whoever comes to Me shall not hunger and whoever believes in Me shall never thirst”?  And didn’t He also say, “All the Father gives Me will come to Me, and to whoever comes to Me, I will never cast out”?

So I will run.  I will run to the only place, the only person, that makes any sense at all to the promises.  I will run to the promise giving and the promise keeping Lord of life.  If I have any hope at all it’s in Him.  He knows my rashness, my bitterness, my self-righteousness, my better than those Gentile thoughts that I have.  He knows my denials and that I fell flat on my face when it mattered most.  But who else is there to run to?  Who else has the words of life?  As we read earlier, “I will stand on the promises of my God.  Come what may, I will run headlong into the promise keeping Lord.  For didn’t He say, ‘Do not fear those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul.’  Rather, fear Him who can destroy both soul and body and hell.”

Jesus said “destroy this temple” and that He would raise it up again in three days.  It makes sense then to say, “I will fear no one else.  I will fear no one else.  Even if He has hard words for me.  I will follow Him.  I will believe Him.  I will run to Him because I know number one that He is powerful and merciful and truthful, and two, He is a promise keeping Savior.  He is risen indeed.”

And that leads us to our concluding point.  Because Christ is merciful, powerful, faithful, and true, Peter’s reaction should be ours.  You’re probably already making that connection.  Because Christ has fulfilled His promises, the only sane reaction to our own sin, our own failure, is to stand on the promises of Christ with faith, action, humility, gratefulness, perseverance.  That is that metaphorical run to the tomb once again.

So as I try to land this plane, let me ask what we don’t see in this story.  Well, what we don’t see is Peter justifying himself, explaining himself, explaining why or psychoanalyzing his peer-pressured failure.  He doesn’t start blaming it on Eve or his rash ADHD-like inability to stay on task.  No, he just goes to find Christ.

Earlier I asked you this question:  Does your failure, or perhaps you could say it this way, your lapse of wisdom or your outright sin, cause you to run away from Christ or does it cause you to run to Christ?  Does it cause you to be bitter toward others, the church, your friends, your leaders, your God?  Or do you know your teacher to be merciful?

If someone in the church sins against you, that can be very, very hard.  It can cause deep pain.  However, it’s equally true that if I sin, if we sin, we can begin to emotionally circle the wagons, to enter self-protection mode, to blame shift, to hide, to pull back from fellowship, to run away from the very thing that we need.

If you have been mean or inconsiderate of a friend, what’s your reaction?  Do you shrink away or do you press in?  Or will you leave your gift there before the altar and first go and be reconciled to your brother or your sister?  If you are sinking down as we sing, “Sinking down, sinking down into the waves,” do you sometimes wish you could just take a big breath and go ahead and dive to save embarrassment?  Or do you reach up for Christ and say, “Save me”?

Have you sinned against Him?  Have you sinned against Jesus Christ?  Have you denied Him by your words or actions?  And then, have you been harboring bitterness and anger and self-righteousness?  Have you been allowing doubt to fill your heart?

Jesus Christ knows you as He knows Peter.  He knows your inmost thoughts.  He knows your sins and you weaknesses.  The question is do you know Him?  Do you know Jesus?  Do you know that He is merciful?  Do you know that He is truthful?  He will tell you like it is, which is perhaps exactly what we need.  But do you know that He will keep His promises.  He promised all that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and whoever comes to Me, I will never cast out. 

When you sin, come to Him.  He may have hard words.  Do you crave truthful words that make you more holy, more appreciative of your Savior?

I trust that you are learning to dislike and avoid your sin.  But you will sin.  And when you do, will you stand on the promises of Christ, your king?  Trusting that He will not cast you aside.

As Peter would put it, from 1 Peter 2, “For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”  He did not cast Peter out.

I kind of, as I was preparing and I was just looking through the epistles of Peter, I began to wonder when the opening words of Peter’s first epistle began to form.  Maybe on the run?  I don’t know.  Maybe after his restoration or through years of ministry.  In any case, it’s hard to not see the happiness and the hope that just fills Peter’s heart.  It certainly poured out of his quill when he wrote, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  According to His great mercy He has caused us to be born again to a living hope, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

He is risen indeed and you can stand upon His promises.

My thought was simply to encourage you to trust Christ, especially when you have denied Him in some way, in some fashion, and need to run to Him.                                                                                                                                           

Let’s pray.  You, O Lord, are merciful.  You are powerful to save.  You are faithful and true.  So allow us, cause us, remind us, to lean upon You, to stand upon Your promises.  In the precious and powerful name of Jesus Christ, I pray.  Amen.