Believe and Believe Again

by | Apr 10, 2020 | Sermons

Believe and Believe Again

On Good Friday we are confronted by the death of Jesus. Acts of betrayal, denial corruption fill the narrative. In his gospel account John provides a rich tapestry for us, full of vivid images. As deal with the isolation forced upon us due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, we experience the isolation that the disciples and Jesus must have experienced in a new light. 

Below you will find the normal scripture links for your reference. We are also working on capturing more elements into the video of the worship service. Carolyn has recorded music and we will be singing the following hymns:

  • When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
  • Rock of Ages

We hope that you find the worship service helpful as we navigate this time together.

Scripture: Psalm 22 and John 18:1-19:42

It was a junior high dance. My school held them during the day when class would normally be held. The option was go to class or go to the dance. At the time neither of those two options appealed to me, but if I had to pick then the dance it was. Not that I had any interest in dancing, whether it be with my circle of friends or a girl I happened to be interested in. No, the only thing I was interested in doing was hanging out by the wall waiting for the whole thing to be over. I wanted nothing more than to become invisible during that hour, noticed by no one so that I could then happily go on my way.

I was what we might call a ‘wall flower’ watching what was going on, but not very interested in any of it. I imagine we have all had similar situations where our preference in a situation is to simply go unnoticed. We don’t want to stand out or draw attention. We want to be invisible.

Perhaps it is at work, where we are happy to go in and do our 9-5 so that we can escape home to our families. Maybe there is an altercation or argument that we witness, and we don’t want to get involved, wishing we could shrink and not be noticed.

This is the situation Peter finds himself in. As Jesus is standing trial, Peter is looking for a way to disappear. He wants to become invisible, to not be noticed and he is fearful of what might happen if he is discovered.

Peter will deny knowing Jesus three times. He wants to disappear that badly, he fears being associated with Jesus to that degree. It’s curious because Peter follows Jesus to the High Priest. He actively agrees to go, but when he recognizes the severity of what is transpiring he becomes fearful.  Peter is having a crisis of faith. He knows he follows the Messiah, the Son of God, but he is starting to realize that the consequence of his choices might be more than he can bare.

“I am not a disciple of Jesus” is what Peter will respond when asked about his association with Jesus.

I am not. Throughout John’s gospel Jesus identifies himself through the words “I Am”.

I am the resurrection and the life.

I am the light of the world.

I am the bread of life.

I am the good shepherd.

I am the gate.

I am the true vine.

I am the way, the truth and the life.

For Peter to use the words, “I am not” is a direct contrast to how Jesus has been identifying himself. Peter’s denial seeks to remove himself from key identifying trait of Jesus in John’s gospel. Peter is having a crisis of faith. He knows what he believes, but he is struggling with belief.

Pastor Robert Hoch puts it this way, “At one point in the narrative, the narrator switches back and forth between two scenes in the trial: one outside, in the courtyard where the crowd interrogates Peter; the other on the inside, with Pilate interrogating Jesus.

“This gives the viewer “double insight” into the development of the story — a double insight that would be consistent with John’s hope that we would believe and believe again. But believing may also mean getting close to the possibility of unbelief.” (Robert Hoch)

Getting close to the possibility of unbelief. This is where Peter is at, not that he doesn’t believe who Jesus is. Though maybe he is baffled by the arrest, wonders why Jesus doesn’t fight or struggle? Peter is watching his world fall apart. He thought he understood how things were supposed to function, he knew his place in the world, he knew his place beside Jesus and now everything has been turned on its head and he is getting close to the possibility of unbelief.

Our world, our lives have been similarly turned on their heads. A month ago we were going about our lives, all seemed well and now we struggle. We are in disbelief as to how quickly things have changed. Through it all we have questions. We want to know why? We wonder that age old question, if God is good and if God is all-powerful why is there suffering in the world?

How can God allow something like Covid-19, and other life altering situations, to exist?

And in asking these questions, in struggling through to answers which aren’t always satisfying we struggle with the possibility of unbelief. Because part of believing and of being a believer who questions and seeks to grow in faith, means that you must contend with the possibility of unbelief.

In order to believe and believe again, you have to wrestle with unbelief. 

This is the struggle that Peter is facing on Good Friday, where if all things were equal he would just like to disappear. To become invisible for a time. It is the struggle that we have when our world is turned upside down. When sometimes all we have is the most tenuous strand of faith anchoring us and even it seeks to snap and set us adrift.

After his denial we don’t see Peter again until Easter. Peter is not present at the trial Pilate holds, he is not there when Jesus is sentenced, he doesn’t appear at the cross, he doesn’t come to help bury Jesus. Peter is struggling with the possibility of unbelief.

In their song Wake Up Dead Man the band U2 sing,

Jesus, Jesus help me.

I’m alone in this world

And a messed up world it is too

Tell me, tell me the story.

The one about eternity

And the way it’s all gonna be…

Or are you working on something new?

If there’s an order

In all of this disorder

Is it like a tape recorder?

Can we rewind it just once more.

Wake up, wake up dead man.

On Good Friday, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God was laid to rest. He is the sacrificial lamb who took it all for our sake. They came for Jesus, the light of the world, with lanterns, torches and swords. In a mockery of a trial that laid bare the deficiencies of a corrupt and broken world. In a violent execution they demonstrated our love for violence.

We sit here in our present time, desiring to believe and believe again. We do so through the pain of our current isolation. We wonder if like Peter we should find a way to quietly disappear. We feel like Jesus, entombed.

We cry for Jesus to wake. It is a dark time and we are frightened and we are struggling. There is no shame in admitting that, in sharing that. We are all experiencing heightened anxiety at this time and we want it to pass. Through it all we struggle and recognize that we may be getting close to the possibility of unbelief.

But remember this: In order to get to the empty tomb and the joyful shouts of Halleluiah, he is risen. In order to get there, we must go through the darkness that is Good Friday. We must walk through the valley of the shadow of death. And we may cry out in anguish, just as Jesus did, but on the other side, on the other side we bear witness to a wonderful promise.

This is the struggle that Good Friday brings us. It forces us to ask the hard questions about belief, in order for us to shout with conviction on Easter morning that Christ is risen! Amen.

St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church

St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church

St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Cobourg is part of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The congregation was established in 1833 and continues to serve the community.

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