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Finding release in Jesus

Good Friday  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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We can place the weight on our lives onto Jesus and find release

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The Weight

Sometimes there can be this feeling that we have a weight placed on us. At times it can be overbearing. For some people, this feeling occurs often. For others, not so much.
That feeling of weight might be any number of things. It might be expectations that others, or maybe even you place on your self. Often expectations that were never realistic in the first place.
Or the feeling might be a concern you have - maybe there is uncertainty ahead for you. Perhaps your prospect for ongoing work is not good, or your finances are in a bad way. Maybe it’s a health concern or to do with your relationships.
Or maybe you just can’t quite figure it out, but that feeling of weight is real and you just want to feel free again.

The weight on Peter

This morning, we are going to look at the sacrifice that Jesus made. As we do, I want to look at two people who feature somewhat in the account and look at the weight that was placed on them.
The first person I want to look at is the apostle Peter.

Peter’s background

Well, of the twelve disciples, Peter is the one who we seem to hear the most about.
He’s the type of person that you might say acts before he thinks. Mind you, that’s sometimes helpful as we often get great lessons from these moments.
He has some great highs - he is the one who steps out of the boat to walk on water with Jesus. He is the one that makes the great confession that Jesus is the Messiah.
But he also has a number of lows, the most prominent being the one we’re about to look at.

Summary of events

So if I take you now to the Thursday before the crucifixion. We’re in the meal that we now call the last supper. Jesus has shared the bread and the cup before saying that one of the disciples will betray Jesus.
Peter of course, in his typical full-of-heart manner, says “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death”. But of course, Jesus, who sees things clearly says, “I tell you, Peter, before the cock crows today, you will deny three times that you know me”.
They then go out where Jesus prays earnestly, but his disciples, including Peter all fall asleep.
But then we come to the episode of the arrest, and this time Peter also jumps into the action, as recorded to us by John’s Gospel. Peter is keen to show how zealous he is, so he draws the swords and strikes the ear of the high priests servant, before being rebuked by Jesus.
But Jesus knows it is his time and so he doesn’t put up a resistance. Instead he allows them to take him, whereby he is led to the Annas, who we are told is the father-in-law of Caiaphas the high priest.

Peter’s denial

It is at this point, that I want to briefly look at what happens to Peter.
Now, while I was preparing this message, I noticed a small detail which I don’t think I ever paid attention to before.
If you look in starting at verse 15, you’ll see that we have not only Simon Peter, but another disciple who are following Jesus.
Now there is a question mark over who this other disciple is. There is a distinct possibility that it is just another person unknown to us, who followed Jesus prior to this event.
However, quite a number of people believe that it is actually the apostle John that is with Peter, after all, he often refers to himself in this gospel as “the disciple that Jesus loved”.
Well, the surprising thing is, that we’re told that this other disciples (who may be John), was actually allowed into the courtyard of the high priest, because he was known to the servant girl.
It was then only because of this other disciple being able to vouch for Peter, that he too was allowed in.
Now presumably, this servant girl knew about the other disciples connection with Jesus, which is actually implied in the way she asks her direct question to Peter.
You see, she asks Peter if he also is a disciple of Jesus.

What’s in Peter’s head

As she asks this question, we don’t really know what is going on in the mind of Peter.
I’m going to suggest however that Peter was feeling this weight that I was talking about before. The mysterious weight that to be honest, is usually always hard to explain.
I suspect a lot was contributing towards this weight. I suspect in part, it was the fear of not knowing what is going on. I suspect in part, it was the knowledge that everything is now out of his control.
I also suspect that a big part of it was a spiritual heaviness, given that the most spiritually important event ever to occur is about to happen. In other words, the spiritual battle is raging big time, and Peter is right in the middle of it.
Now imagine this servant girl questioning Peter while he has this weight on him. I’m not at all excusing his actions, but with this great weight on his shoulders you can begin to understand them.

Weight on Pilate

Well, let’s keep this weight of Peter in mind, because I want to move to the next person with a great weight. This time, I want to look at Pilate.
Now I think Pilate is a really intriguing character in this whole account. I suspect for anyone whose paid attention to the account, we’ve all felt a bit of sympathy for this man - which again, is not to excuse his actions.
So let’s look at his part in the story.

Context of Pilate

For those who are unaware, Pontius Pilate was the Governor of Judea, which while of great significance to us, actually wasn’t a particularly prominent position as far as the bigger picture of Rome was concerned.
We know from other sources that he had been in the position for about 5 or so years prior to this event. It is thought that he had a fairly rocky relationship with the Jews, although not terrible. There did however seem to be an underlying tension between them, with various Jewish official threatening to report Pilate to Rome, something which made him somewhat nervous.

The lead up

Well, on this particular day, Jesus was taken to Pilate early in the morning ().
It seems quite clear their main motivation - they wanted Jesus executed, but they knew they didn’t have authority to do it, and probably in such a high profile case, they didn’t want to take matters into their own hands on this occasion.
Well, despite Pilate’s initial attempts to not take on the case, by , we see Jesus start being questioned by him.
By the way the conversation is recorded for us by John, it would seem that initially Pilate was just getting a bit exasperated by the whole situation. He clearly seems to think that this is a problem that the Jews should be sorting out, and not bringing him into it.
This initial part of the conversation ends with Jesus admitting he is a king, but not one of this world.
Well, if anything, this seems to amuse Pilate, who tries yet again to hand him back. With further protestations, Pilate finally agrees to have Jesus flogged, but still this isn’t enough for the Jews. They want him crucified.
But then we see a turning point in the attitude of Pilate, and it comes in . It is the moment that Jesus becomes identified with being the Son of God.
We’re told in verse 8 that Pilate becomes afraid.
Pilates mood changes from being exasperated, to being desperate.

Pilate’s weight

And so I want to suggest that now in Pilate, we can see this weight on him.
Again, it is hard to put your finger on it. Partly, it is the struggle dealing with people who seem to just want to make your life difficult. Partly it is the feeling that you are forced to act in a way that goes against your better judgement.
But also, there is a strong sense that this weight he is feeling is very much a spiritual one - just like Peter, there is a major spiritual battle taking place, and Pilate is front and centre of it all.

Releasing the weight

So here I’ve shown two people with great weights on them.
What are we to make of it all? Both of their situations are unique, but while we can’t know exactly what it must have felt like for them, most of us would know that feeling that something is placed on us and we just don’t know what to do.

The weight on Jesus

Well, while these two have great weights on them, their is a third person in this story whose gains the greatest weight of them all.
That is Jesus. The weight he would be feeling would have dwarfed the feeling of the others, and anything that we would have ever felt.
That’s because the weight he was feeling was more than just the fact that he was about to undergo an excruciating death. It was more than knowing that one of his closest friends had just denied knowing him. It was more than knowing that he had the means to escape this whole situation.
His weight was knowing that he was taking the punishment of all humanity.
There is no denying that as Jesus hung dying on the cross he was in great physical pain. But others died in similar ways, in fact, I’m pretty sure you could argue that others have died in more pain.
But the difference with Jesus is that as he hung there, he died with our sins on his shoulders.

Handing our weight on

And so this is the answer for us, and the point I want you to take home today.
That weight you are feeling, or that you feel from time to time… You don’t need to carry it.
You don’t need to carry it, because Jesus has dealt with it on the cross.
But the big question is - what do I actually mean by that?
It can all sound nice in theory, but how can it work in practice - after all, while God is able to take away your various concerns, quite often the various concerns we have will stay with us.
Well, the first thing to know is that Jesus dying on a cross does not mean that all your problems just vanish.
But when Jesus died on the cross and paid the price for our sins, he took a victory like no other that we have seen. It was a spiritual victory over the spiritual forces of this world.
And while I recognise that when we feel this weight that I’ve been talking about, there are many factors that go into it, I believe that quite often a significant part of it is a spiritual darkness in our lives.
What can happen is that we allow this spiritual darkness to take a hold, but it shouldn’t be able to take a hold.
This is why when we start to feel this heavy burden, we should look to the cross. We should see the victory that Jesus has already won and know that we can allow this victory to work in our lives.
We will still have struggles, at least we will until Christ comes again, but we can face them knowing that we have a God who has gone before us and paved the way for us.

Conclusion

If I now come back to Peter and Pilate that we just looked at, we see how this can end up.
In the case of Peter, that heaviness got the better of him.
If we jump a short time after the resurrection, we see Jesus approach Peter about the denial - it wasn’t easy. This life isn’t easy. But what we do see is the weight lifted. Peter found release in Jesus.
In the case of Pilate, well, we don’t really hear much about him after the event. I’d be speculating if I formed too much of a conclusion from this. But given we didn’t hear otherwise, he most likely allowed this weight to be the better of him and didn’t find release in Jesus.
What about you?
There is no promise that you will have an easy life this side of Christ’s return, but are you going to hold onto that weight, or are you going to hand it over to Jesus?
When we look to the cross, we can find release. Jesus won the victory. But of course there is even more to the story, which we will explore on Sunday morning.
So let’s pray...
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