My Failure Isn't Final
Pastor Pat Damiani My Failure Isn’t Final Mark 16:1-8 April 1, 2018 Although I’m not one to look back a lot, there are certainly some things in my life that I would have done differently, knowing what I know now. • After nearly 41 years, I’m really grateful for my marriage and I can’t imagine ever being married to anyone else. But as I look back, I know there are many times in my life where I could have certainly been a much better husband. • I think Mary and I did a pretty good job of raising our kids. But knowing some things now that I didn’t know back then, it’s obvious that there were some things that I could have done differently to be a much better father. • As I look back over my time in ministry, and especially as I look back over some of my old sermons, I often cringe at some of the things that I taught and did and realize that without a doubt there are some things I could have done differently to be a much better pastor. • But without a doubt, my biggest regrets in life all revolve around the many times in my life when I have failed God – the period in my life where I really wanted nothing to do with Him, the times when I’ve had opportunities to be a witness for Him and let fear keep me from doing that, and the times when I deliberately chose to sin, even though I knew that what I was about to do was wrong in His eyes. What I wouldn’t give for a second chance to go back and fix some of those things. But life doesn’t often give us second chances, does it? I’m pretty sure that most of you are a lot like me in that regard. You look back at your life and wish that you had a second chance to go back and make some different decisions and take some different actions in your life. And likely that is especially true when it comes to your relationship with God. If you have never failed God, then you can be excused right now, because this message really won’t be relevant to you. But if, like me, you’ve ever promised God that you would do something and you didn’t follow through and do it, if you’ve ever promised to quit repeatedly engaging in some sin, only to blow it repeatedly, if you’ve ever denied Jesus with your words or your actions, or your lack of action, then you need the hope and encouragement that God wants to give you this morning. If you’re weighed down by the guilt of your past sins and you feel like God could never forgive you or that He could never use you, then you need to hear what God wants to say to you through His Word this morning. Since this is such an important idea for us to understand, I’m going to begin with the bottom line and then we’ll use the Bible text to see if we can’t develop that idea further and see how it applies to our lives. The resurrection is my guarantee that failure isn’t final Each of the gospel writers gives us a different viewpoint of the resurrection of Jesus and this morning, I want to look at Mark’s account because it provides us with a crucial piece of information that isn’t included in the other three gospel accounts. And after we read that account, I’ll explain to you why it makes sense that only Mark includes these two crucial words. If you have your Bibles, go ahead and turn to Mark chapter 16. Mark is the second of the gospels and you’ll find it right after the book of Matthew and right before the book of Luke. [Read Mark 16:1-8] If you take the time to read all four accounts of the resurrection in the four gospels, you will note that there is some difference in the details in those accounts. As I’m going to talk about more next week when we discuss why we can be sure the Bible is reliable, those differences actually give me more confidence in the accuracy of Scripture. The four gospel writers all got their information from different sources, who each saw the resurrection from different viewpoints and perspectives. So while the foundational aspects of the resurrection are the same, or at least very similar in the four accounts, some of the details do differ. If the resurrection was some kind of myth or conspiracy, the early church would have seen to it that those four accounts agreed on all the details. But because it was a real event witnessed by real people, we find exactly what we would expect – some variation among the four accounts. Most scholars agree that Mark, who was not one of the apostles, and therefore not an eyewitness of many of the events that are recorded in his gospel account, probably got most of his information from Peter. So it is not surprising that Mark includes two words in his account that are not found in any of the other accounts. And I’ll point out those two words in just a moment. Since Jesus’ body had been taken down from the cross in a hurry by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus in order to get it into the tomb before the beginning of the Jewish Sabbath, the body had not been properly prepared for burial. So early the morning after the Sabbath, a group of women headed for Jesus’ tomb with the spices they were going to use to anoint the body. Apparently they hadn’t had their coffee yet, so they had forgotten one important detail. Who was going to roll the large stone away from the entrance to the tomb? But when they arrived at the tomb, the stone had already been rolled away and they were greeted by an angel, who is described by Mark as a young man dressed in a white robe. He told the women not to be alarmed because the body of Jesus was not here because He had risen. And the angel showed them the place where the body had been. Then in verse 7, the angel instructs the women to go tell the disciples that Jesus was alive and that He was going to meet them in Galilee. And it is there in verse 7 that we find the 2 words that only Mark records: But go, tell his disciples AND PETER, that he is going before you to Galilee. Why does the angel single out Peter? After all, isn’t he one of the disciples? I could understand if the angel had said, “Go tell the disciples and Herod, or Pontius Pilate or some of the others who had been involved in sentencing Jesus to death and carrying out the crucifixion.” To be real honest , that’s who I would want to know that I was alive after they had put me to death. I could even understand if the angel had said, “Go tell the disciples and John.” After all John was the only one who had remained with Jesus and His mother Mary during the crucifixion. But why Peter? Perhaps this video will help us understand why. Although it depicts the interaction between Jesus and Peter a bit later in the events recorded in John 20, it helps us to understand the importance of those two words – and Peter. [Skit Guys video – Grace] One could argue that no one needed to hear the good news of Jesus’ resurrection more than Peter. Over three years earlier, Peter had left his fishing business to follow an itinerant preacher named Jesus. He had come to understand that Jesus was the promised Messiah and had promised that he would never turn away from Jesus, even if everyone else did. But when Jesus needed him most, Peter had denied that he even knew Jesus, not once, not twice, but three times. And Luke reveals that as Peter denied Jesus for the third time, Jesus turned and looked at Peter. And realizing what he had done, Peter broke down and wept. Those next three days had to have been miserable for Peter. I imagine that he had a hard time sleeping. He probably didn’t feel like eating. There was nothing that anyone could do to console him. But with those words – and Peter – everything changed. Those words meant that for Peter – and for us – that failure is not final. It is significant that the angel uses the name Peter, which means “the rock”, and not his given name Simon. It seems to me that the message that Jesus is conveying to Peter through the angel is that though by his nature, he is Simon, the one who denied Jesus, he is by grace, Peter, the rock. With these two words – and Peter – Jesus began the process of giving Peter a second chance and restoring him so that He could carry out the assignment that Jesus was going to give him – to feed His sheep. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul reveals that Jesus appeared to Peter alone at some point before he appeared to the apostles as a group. And then, as we just saw in the video, Jesus had a conversation with Peter on the shores of the Sea of Galilee where He completed that process and gave Peter the assignment to feed His sheep. Without the resurrection, none of that would have been possible. If Jesus had not risen from the grave, I am convinced that Peter would have wallowed away the rest of his life in grief and self-pity and despair. But the resurrection was his guarantee that failure was not final. And the same is true for us. As we gather here this morning, I am confident in saying that at some point in our lives every single one of us has blown it with God. Maybe we’ve never done it quite to the extent that Peter did by explicitly denying Jesus, but I’m pretty sure that all of us have let God down in various ways throughout our lives. And if it were possible, we would go back and do some things differently. But those two words – and Peter – reveal that in Jesus, a second chance is possible. In fact, the Bible is a story of second chances. Think about it, when it came time to choose a man to lead a nation out of slavery in Egypt, how many of us would have picked a murderer? But for 40 years, God prepared Moses for a second chance while he cared for his father-in-law’s sheep. And who would have ever thought that a man who was consumed with lust could become a man after God’s own heart and become the greatest king of Israel. But that’s what happened when God gave David a second chance. Starting in May, we’re going to spend 4 weeks looking at the life of someone else who got a second chance from God – the prophet Jonah. Most of us are probably familiar with his story and how after fleeing from God, the word of the Lord came to him a second time. So Peter is just one more in a long line of people who received a second chance from God and discovered that with God failure does not need to be final. But even though a second chance is possible, it is not automatic. The Bible is also filled with stories of people who were given a second chance, but who chose not to take advantage of that. The rich young ruler was given the opportunity for a second chance. But he was unwilling to part with his wealth, so he went away sad and grieving. Judas, was given the opportunity for a second chance by Jesus, but when Jesus failed to live up to his expectations of the Messiah, He instead betrayed Jesus and ended up hanging himself. Even Pontius Pilate had an opportunity for a second chance. But while he regretted his part on the crucifixion of Jesus, he never did what was needed to receive that second chance. So what was the difference between those three men and Peter? Even more relevant for all of us, how do we make sure that we take advantage of our second chances so that we make sure that our failures are not final? HOW TO MAKE SURE MY FAILURES ARE NOT FINAL 1. Put my faith in Jesus alone We first see Peter declare his faith in Jesus when Jesus asks the disciples who they think He is and Peter replies “You are the Christ”. But right after that, we see that Peter certainly didn’t have a complete understanding of what that meant because he rebukes Jesus when Jesus reveals that He is going to be killed and then rise from the grave after three days. But by the time the disciples gather for the Passover meal the night before Jesus goes to the cross, Peter still doesn’t understand the whole picture. But we know that Peter’s faith is adequate to make sure that his failures aren’t final because when Peter asks Jesus to wash not just his feet, but also his head and his hands, Jesus tells him that He is “clean”. (John 13: 10). I find Peter’s story to be really encouraging because it reveals that putting our faith or trust in Jesus doesn’t require us to completely understand everything about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. I certainly know that is true in my life. When I first put my faith in Jesus while I was in college, I didn’t know Jesus nearly as well as I know Him now and I didn’t understand what it means to be His disciple to the extent I do now. All I really knew then were the very basics: • I knew that I was a sinner who had violated the standards established by a holy God. • I knew that God’s justice demanded that there was a penalty that needed to be paid for my sins, but that I was completely incapable of doing anything to pay that penalty myself. • I knew that Jesus took my sin upon Himself and died on the cross to pay that penalty on my behalf and that He rose from the dead to prove his victory over sin and death. • I knew that the way that I received the second chance He was giving me was to put my trust in Him alone and yield control of my life to Him. The rich young ruler, Judas and Pontius Pilate never received their second chance because they weren’t willing to put their faith in Jesus alone. But there was one other thing they failed to do as well. 2. Repent This is one of those religious words that we use in church that is really important, but which is not always easy to understand. The word literally means “to change one’s mind”. It conveys the idea of turning our mind away from self and back to God. But as that word is used in the New Testament, it is always a change in one’s thinking that leads to a change in one’s behavior as these verses clearly show: John the Baptist: Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. (Matthew 3:8 ESV) Paul to King Agrippa: but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance. (Acts 26:20 ESV) Jesus to the church in Ephesus: Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. (Revelation 2:5 ESV) The rich young ruler, Judas and Pilate all were sorry. They had regrets over what they had done. But they never came to the place where that sorrow led them to have the kind of change of mind that led them to change their behavior. Peter on the other hand, clearly did that. As we saw in our study of Acts, once this impetuous, impulsive disciple had been restored by Jesus he became the rock that Jesus told him he would be. The resurrection is my guarantee that failure isn’t final It is the resurrection of Jesus that guarantees that no matter how you may have failed God in the past, no matter how egregious you might think that failure is, your failure is not final because God is a God of second chances. But as we’ve seen this morning that second chance is not guaranteed unless you put your faith in Jesus alone and unless you repent. This morning, all of you here fit into one of two groups. There are some of you here this morning who have never put your faith in Jesus alone. • Maybe that is you are like me before I did that – I just didn’t know that I needed to do that. But if you’ve been listening carefully this morning, you should now understand the importance of doing that. • May you’ve never done that because you feel like you just don’t understand everything that is involved in being a disciple of Jesus. If that describes you, then I want to encourage you to do like I did and go ahead and make that decision, knowing that is just the starting point in a relationship with Jesus where you will come to know Him better over time. • Some of you have heard this good news and you even understand it intellectually, but for some reason you’ve been avoiding or putting off the decision to put your faith in Jesus. If any of those scenarios describe your life, we invite you to put your faith in Jesus alone. And when you do that, it is really important that you let someone else know that you’ve made that decision so that we can help you grow in your relationship with Jesus. There are several ways you can do that this morning: • The best way is to speak with someone before you leave today. As we sing our closing song, I’ll be at the back of the room, along with some of our Elders. And we would be happy to talk to you more about that decision and answer any questions you might have. • You can contact us using the contact information on the back of your bulletin. You’ll find contact information for each of our Elders as well as information on our website, Facebook page and Faithlife groups and you can contact us through any of those platforms. • Maybe you came with someone who invited you this morning. They probably invited you because they care for you and want to make sure that your failures in life aren’t final. So go ahead and talk to them about your decision. There is a second group here this morning that consists of those of you who have already made that decision to put your faith in Jesus. But perhaps there are still times in your life where you feel like Peter did – like you have let God down and you are a failure. If that is true in your life, then it may very well be that you need to repent. You need to take that rebellion or that sin or that failure before God and ask Him to forgive you and help you to change your thinking and take whatever action you need to take to turn away from self and turn back to God. And then, like Peter, you need to move on with your life and serve God the very best that you are able. As we close today, it is my prayer that all of you will leave encouraged, knowing that your failure is not final. Here’s how we’re going to help you do that. I’m going to a portion of today’s passage and paraphrase it slightly and then ask you to put your own name in that passage in place of Peter’s name Do not be alarmed. You Seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified, He has risen, he is not here, See the place where they laid him. But go tell his disciples and ______________________ Jesus is alive. Let’s all read that out loud together.