Golgotha Bound #6
It’s amazing what fear can do to us. Do you know what Ananananyphobia is? The fear of not being able to stop while spelling banana. How about Anatidaephobia? That’s the fear that wherever you are, a duck is watching! This morning we’re going to look at Fear and Faith through the actions and words of the Apostle Peter.
Clint Eastwood is one of Hollywood’s most successful actors and directors. You would never guess from his first acting experience that he would ever have a successful career in show business. When he was in the eighth grade, Eastwood was assigned the lead role in a class play. He begged his teacher to reconsider. As soon as the play was over and he came off stage, the young Clint declared, “I don’t ever want to do that again.” (1)
Fear can drive us away with our tail tucked between our legs. Or fear can cause us to do some extraordinary things and even act in heroic ways. It’s that old Fight or Flight syndrome. I’ve told you that my Dad and I didn’t have a very good relationship while I was growing up. My Dad was an enigma and a walking set of contradictions. But there is an image of my Dad that I will never forget.
It happened sometime between my second and third grade years. Dad had on old green Jeep pickup truck. I loved riding in it. So did my brother Glen, who would have been 3 or 4 at the time. I don’t know where we were headed but I do know where it happened. It was Route 66 and the Old Hallsferry Road outside of St. Louis. All if it comes back kind of like an old fashioned slideshow, single images.
We topped the hill there and there was an 18 wheeler, a fuel truck, lying on its side. Flames were just starting at the back of the cab. We were the first ones on the scene of the accident. All of a sudden my Dad pulled over, hollered, “Stay here. Don’t get out of the truck.” And off he ran.
The next thing I remember is Dad climbing up the side of the truck and looking inside. The next thing I remember is Dad dragging the drive out of the truck. And the next thing I remember is Dad running with this guy in his arms with the flames of the fire getting higher and higher.
And then, right as Dad got next to the truck, faboom. The tanker exploded. I still have that image of my Dad in my head, him carrying a bloody body framed by the fury of the fire. Dad never wanted any recognition. He did it out of fear of what would happen to the driver.
Fear can cause us to do some pretty crazy things. Generally speaking, though, Fear Freezes and Faith Frees Us. The passage for today is: John 13:36-38; 18:12-27
John 13:36-38 (NRSV)
 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered, “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow afterward.”
 Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”
 Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times.
John 18:12-27 (NRSV)
 So the soldiers, their officer, and the Jewish police arrested Jesus and bound him.
 First they took him to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year.
 Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was better to have one person die for the people.
 Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest,
 but Peter was standing outside at the gate. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the woman who guarded the gate, and brought Peter in.
 The woman said to Peter, “You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.”
 Now the slaves and the police had made a charcoal fire because it was cold, and they were standing around it and warming themselves. Peter also was standing with them and warming himself.
 Then the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching.
 Jesus answered, “I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret.
 Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said.”
 When he had said this, one of the police standing nearby struck Jesus on the face, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?”
 Jesus answered, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?”
 Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.
 Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They asked him, “You are not also one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.”
 One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?”
 Again Peter denied it, and at that moment the cock crowed.
I. FIRST THINGS:
A. Let’s look at a couple of things before we move to the points of the sermon. Peter was a walking contradiction between Faith and Fear. He had the Faith to follow when Jesus called him to be a disciple. But he was full of Fear of the cross as the came down the mountain after the Transfiguration.
Peter had Faith enough to step out of the boat and walk on the water with Jesus. But his Fear of the storm and Fear of the water trumped that and he began to sink.
And Peter had Faith enough to follow the crowd after Jesus was betrayed and arrested. But his Fear of being caught and facing same thing Jesus was facing caused him to deny even knowing Jesus, not once but three times before the cock’s crow.
B. According to Jewish ritual law, it wasn’t lawful to keep cocks in the holy city, although we can’t be sure whether that law was kept or not. Further, it is never possible to be sure that a cock will crow.
However, the Romans had a certain military practice. The night was divided into four watches: 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., 9 p.m. to 12 midnight, 12 midnight to 3 a.m., and 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. After the third watch the guard was changed and to mark the changing of the guard there was a trumpet call at 3 a.m. That trumpet call was called in latin gallicinium, which means cockcrow. William Barclay suggests that Jesus may have said to Peter: “Before the trumpet sounds the cockcrow you will deny me three times.” (2)
Legend has it that until long after Pentecost, everyone who saw Peter crowed like a rooster or clucked like a chick and this is the origin of calling someone who acts cowardly a “chicken.” You can decide whether that’s true or not.
The point is, whether it was a trumpet call at 3 a.m. or an actual cock crowing really doesn’t make any difference. When Peter heard it, he remembered what Jesus had said and it pained him.
II. FEAR FREEZES:
A. Peter let fear enter his life and faith. That’s what was going on in his life. Fear! He was reluctant to face the future. He was afraid of losing Jesus. He was afraid of the cross. His fear began to choke his faith. You see: Fear Freezes. Fear locks us up; it chokes us and grips our hearts. It keeps us from doing incredible things.
In the movie Akeelah and the Bee, Keke Palmer plays a precocious eleven-year-old girl, Akeelah Anderson, from south Los Angeles. She is discovered to have a talent for words. In spite of the objections of her mother, Akeelah enters a spelling contest. Her gift takes her to compete in the National Spelling Bee, the most famous competition of its kind in the world.
In the scene I’m about to show you, Akeelah has just won her school spelling bee and has been discovered to have a natural talent for spelling. Her new mentor, Dr. Larabee, wants to train her for the National Bee Championship. Akeelah’s mother steps in and forbids her to compete. After thinking about her reasons the mother calls Akeelah and apologizes. WATCH.
B. FEAR FREEZES Fear of failure and fear of success froze and stalled the dreams of Akeelah’s mother. Fear of failure, rejection, significance and even fear of success can all be major obstacles that keep us from glorifying God with our gifts and talents.
I remember when my oldest son Paul was four or five, we were camping and the campground had a playground. On the playground were a couple of slides. One was short and wide, the “baby slide” as my daredevil son called it. And the other one was about seven feet tall. Paul was up and down that slide like a monkey. He couldn’t go fast enough.
As I watched Paul, I noticed another little boy about Paul’s age watching the other kids play on the slide but he just watched. I saw the other kids encouraging him to try it. They would slide down and then say, “See, it’s easy. Come on.”
Finally, reluctantly, the little boy went to the ladder and very slowly climbed to the top. Then he just stood there gripping the rails. He was frozen. All the other kids were hollering and encouraging him, but he just stood there. Finally, he shook his head “No” and backed down the ladder. He couldn’t do it.
My heart broke for that little boy, you see Fear Freezes.
IIL. FAITH FREES US:
A. Fear Freezes but Faith Frees Us. If you look at Jesus, you see it was Jesus’ depth of faith which allowed him to set his mind and heart upon Jerusalem and what awaited him there. And later, at the Sea of Galilee Peter would exhibit a little faith. But after Pentecost, Peter would exhibit a full blown, infectious of faith, the same kind of faith Jesus had.
And that Faith would free him to become the powerful preacher and leader of the early church which he became. Before Pentecost, before his encounter with Jesus on the beach in Galilee, Fear Froze Peter. But after, his Faith Freed him.
B. The difference was the Risen Christ. The difference was both the presence and the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit affirmed and confirmed Peter’s Faith. The Holy Spirit gave Peter the strength, the courage, the power to be the Disciple Jesus call him to be.
The Movie The Greatest Game Ever Played is based on the true story of the 1913 U.S. Open golf showdown between England’s legendary Harry Vardon and young American amateur, Francis Ouimet. Snubbed by the elitist golf club members in both their countries, Vardon and Ouimet are determined to demonstrate that respect is earned by hard work and performance, rather than by accidents of noble birth or inherited wealth.
Years before that historic match, against his father’s wishes, Francis is taken by his mother to a golf exhibition featuring the world’s greatest golfer, Harry Vardon. WATCH
That is exactly how Holy Spirit works in our lives. Like Peter, one moment Francis is the disappointed object of derision, the next moment he’s the hero. What made the difference? Harry Vardon took the time to do two things: encourage the boy, and equip him to succeed. Had Harry encouraged the boy but then sent him on his way, Francis might feel better about himself, but he would still be a poor golfer – and who would step in the next time he shot poorly? Had Harry given cold instruction with no compassion and encouragement, Francis might technically be better, but might have lost the will to pursue the game. Together encouragement and training helped Francis to overcome.
Like Harry Vardon, the Holy Spirit encourages and equips us. That’s the work it did in Peter’s life. His Faith Freed Him, just as Faith Frees Us.
A businessman, in the wool business, once spent an evening with a shepherd on the Texas prairie. During the night, the long wail of coyotes pierced the air. The shepherd’s dogs growled and peered into the darkness. The sheep, which had been sleeping, lumbered to their feet, alarmed, bleating pitifully. The shepherd tossed more logs onto the fire, and the flames shot up.
In the glow, this businessman looked out and saw thousands of little lights. He realized those were reflections of the fire in the eyes of the sheep. In the midst of danger the sheep weren’t looking out into the darkness where the source of their fear was, they were keeping their eyes set in the direction of their safety. They kept their eyes on the shepherd. (3)
Fear Freezes but Faith Frees Us. The presence of God’s Holy Spirit helps us keep our eyes on the Shepherd so we can live Free through Faith. Keep your eye on the Shepherd.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.
1. “Giant Cheddars and Other Juicy Morsels,” by Alice Cary, Biography, August 2001, p. 30.
2. Barclay’s Daily Study Bible (NT)
3. Bible Illustrator for Windows 3.0, 199-1998, Parson’s Technology, Inc.