Purpose doesn’t come from changing your circumstances or your stuff. It comes when the empty tomb changes your perspective. Whether you’re at the top of your game or feel like you’ve hit rock bottom, Jesus offers you a life of more hope, more meaning, and more joy.


CRAIG SMITH | read his bio



The resurrection of Jesus is such good news for us because His empty tomb means that ours are going to empty out someday too. Our faith in Jesus means our tombs are only temporary. The resurrection is an invitation to more. To trust Jesus more and in that, to experience the more that you were created for. There’s more to this story.

Craig: What I wanna do today is I wanna talk to you about the missing link between the cross and the empty tomb. The missing link between the cross and the empty tomb.

We all know the story of the cross, right? We all know that Jesus was arrested by a group of religious leaders who were threatened by what he did and who he claimed to be. That he claimed to be the Son of God so they arrested him, they put him on trial. They pushed back, they pushed hard, they gave him a chance to back down, they said, you’re not really thinking you’re the Son of God, right? And instead of backing down, Jesus leaned in he goes, actually, not only am I not gonna back down, but I’m just gonna tell you from here on out, you’re gonna see me sitting at the right hand of God the Father and coming on the clouds in glory. And they’re like, well, thank you for that. Appreciate it. That’s perfect. That’s exactly what we needed. You clearly are a heretic, you clearly are a blasphemer, you clearly are out of your mind.

And so his enemies handed Jesus over to their enemies, the Roman Empire. And the Roman Empire, beat him within an inch of his life, and then they nailed him to a cross where he died. We know that part of the story. And I think we probably know three days later, the tomb was empty, right? Is there anybody going whoa, wait, wait, what? I didn’t realize there was more to that story. We all kind of know that.

What I wanna talk to you about today is the missing link between the cross and the empty tomb. And you might not have ever thought about there being a link between the two, but there really was. Because the problem is I think most of us go well, I mean, isn’t tombs what you do with bodies? Once somebody dies, don’t you just throw them in a tomb, isn’t that the natural thing? But it’s not for a crucified body. When somebody was crucified, their bodies weren’t put into tombs. In fact…and I’m sorry, this is a little graphic, but I just need you to understand what was normally done. When somebody was crucified, their body was left on the cross. Because people were crucified because in some way they had sort of challenged the authority of Rome. And so when Rome crucified somebody, they left the body on the cross as a horrific, but very effective warning to anybody else who was thinking about rebelling. So they left him on the cross until the body began to decay and parts began to fall off. And then somebody would go and they’d collect what was left and they would throw it into a trash pile. That’s what happened to the bodies of people who were crucified, they were thrown onto a trash pile. That’s what should have happened to the body of Jesus. But it’s not what happened to the body of Jesus. Jesus was actually laid in an empty tomb. And not just any tomb, it was actually the tomb of a rich man.

Which is so interesting, because almost 800 years before Jesus was born, God gave a man named Isaiah a glimpse of what the Messiah would do for us. And here’s how Isaiah recorded what God showed him. He says, “But he the Messiah, the Savior, but he was pierced for our transgressions for our sin. He was crushed for our iniquities for the wrong that we’ve done, and the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds, we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned our own way, we’ve all sinned, but the LORD has laid on him, the iniquity, the sin of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, but he did not open his mouth, he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep, before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment, he was taken away. And yet who of his generation even protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living, for the transgression, for the sin of my people, he was punished. And he was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death.

And that’s a strange line, that last line “He was assigned a grave with the wicked and with the rich in his death.” For centuries, the Jewish rabbis puzzled over this, they argued, like how can that be? You know, and we kind of get how Jesus could have a grave with the wicked because our sin went on his shoulders. He died the death that we deserve, he died the death of the wicked, not because he was working, but because he’s carrying our sin. So, I get the grave with the wicked. But like the rabbis for centuries, it doesn’t really make sense that he was also given a grave with the rich. That’s not what Roman law called for. It’s not what Jewish custom called for. So how did he end up in that tomb?

Well, the missing link was a man, and the man’s name was Joseph. It’s Joseph of Arimathea. He’s kind of a bit player in the Gospels. We don’t know much about him. He shows up in all four of the Gospels but we’re just told little snippets of information about him. But the reality is, even though he doesn’t come across as one of the main figures in the Easter story, he’s a very important part of the Easter story. He’s way more important than we realize because if it weren’t for Joseph, there wouldn’t have been a tomb for Jesus to go into. And there wouldn’t have been a tomb for Jesus to walk out of. If it weren’t for Joseph, there wouldn’t have been a tomb for the stone to be rolled over and for the women to worry about how the stone was gonna get rolled away from. If it weren’t for Joseph, there wouldn’t have been a place for the women to go, and there wouldn’t have been a place for the disciples to run. There would not have been an empty tomb to celebrate on Easter.

There’s more to his story. And in his story actually, I think we begin to understand something of the more that God has for us in the Resurrection. We don’t know much about him. One of the things we know about him is that he had possessions. Matthew says, “As evening approached,” Jesus has just died. “As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph who had himself become a disciple of Jesus.” Says he’s a rich man. And understand Matthew, who’s writing that, Matthew was a pretty rich man himself. Matthew was a tax collector, he’d collected quite a bit of wealth. And so for Matthew to go, that guy is rich. Matthew is basically going that dude is loaded, okay? Like, he’s got it all, he has all the money, he has all the toys.

And, you know, that’s one of those places where I think the world says, oh, you’re not satisfied with life, you’re feeling like you were made for more, you’re feeling like that, there’s more that you’re looking for? Well, I can tell you how to get it, the world says you just need more money. If you just had more money, if you had more possessions, you’re gonna get the more you’re looking for, right? If you could just get that house, if you could just get that car, if you could just get that bank balance, if you could just get that phone, if you could wear those kinds of clothes, if you can afford to go on those kinds of trips, have those kinds of experiences. That’s what you’re looking for, you’re looking for more, your money will get you more of what you’re looking for. But it’s a lie.

And Joseph had the more, he had the more money, he had the more possessions, but he clearly was looking for something that those resources couldn’t get him. And so he became a follower of Jesus, became a disciple, Matthew says. And disciple means he wasn’t just a fan he wasn’t just reposting the best quotes from Jesus’s messages on his social media accounts. No, no, he was a follower. He was listening to what Jesus said and he was doing what Jesus said to do, and he was living the way he saw Jesus live.

And some people struggle with that, right? They go, I don’t know how you can be rich disciple because didn’t Jesus say that it’s hard for rich people to get into the Kingdom of God? Didn’t Jesus say that it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to get into heaven? And the answer is, yes, he did, but it’s not because wealth is wicked, it’s because treasure attracts our trust. Money attracts our trust. Money, whether you have a lot of it or a little of it, money is constantly whispering, “You just need a little more of me, and you can get a little more of what you’re looking for. Joseph had gotten to that point where he realized that all his possessions didn’t give him the more he was looking for. Some of us aren’t quite there yet, and we need to get there. Joseph looked away from what his money could offer to what Jesus could offer.

We also know that Joseph had position. Luke says, “Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man.” The Council he’s talking about there is called the Sanhedrin. It was a group of 70 Jewish leaders and the high priests, and together basically they were in charge of passing the laws and enforcing the laws in Israel. They did it under the authority of the Roman Empire. But within the nation of Israel, they had tremendous power, the people there, they aspired to that position. It wasn’t handed down because you inherited it, you actually had to earn it in some way. You had to play the game. He was a politician is what I’m saying. And I know it’s weird, “But Craig, didn’t you just say he’s a good and upright, man, and now you’re telling us he’s a politician? What are you talking about, right? Because we have a hard time reconciling those.” But Luke tells us he’s both those things. He was political that’s how he got his position because ancient Israel was divided.

It’s funny, people always tell me today that like, “Craig, like, we’ve never been as divided as a country. There’s never been so much division in the world as there is today.” And I’m like, “Have you read history?” Because this is nothing new, okay. From the moment Adam and Eve sinned division kind of defined the world that we live in, right? Adam and Eve sinned, they ran away from God instead of running to God for the first time. God caught up with them, and they turned on each other. I mean, Adam looked at God, he’s like, “Well, sorry, but, you know, yeah, I mean, I ate the apple but you know, the woman, by the way, that you put here. I’m just saying, she gave it to me, right?” And I guarantee you Adam slept on the couch for a good three months after that, right? She’s like, “I cannot believe you threw me under the bus with the Almighty, right?” Like there’s division right there. There was division between them and God, there was division between them and each other. That’s always been the world since Adam and Eve sinned.

In ancient Israel, there was division that made our political division look like a walk in the park. In ancient history there are four major groups, the Sadducees, the Pharisees, the Essenes, the Zealots, they hated each other. For Joseph to get a position on the Council, he basically had to play nice a little bit with everybody. And he got that position.

And that’s another one of those places where the world says you’re looking for a little bit more? Well, I’ll tell you how to get the more you’re looking for, you gotta get the position, right? You gotta get the promotion. You gotta be the manager of the branch or the division. You gotta become the owner of the company, the owner of your own company, when you get that position, then you’re gonna have the more you’re looking for. And not just business kinds of things, you know, if you could become a mother, you’re gonna get the more you’re looking for. If you could just be a mom, or if you could be a dad, if you could be a husband, if you could be a wife, if you could be a boyfriend, or a girlfriend, if you could get on to that team, if you could make that slot in that group of people over there. If you get that position, you’ll get the more that you’re looking for. So, you need to understand Joseph had the position but it didn’t give him the more he was looking for, he found himself looking to Jesus for what his position couldn’t give him.

We also know he had power. Mark tells us “And so as evening approached Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, he was himself waiting for the Kingdom of God, he went boldly to Pilate and he asked for Jesus’s body.” Mark says he wasn’t just a member of the Council, he was a prominent member of the Council. Just being on the Council meant that you had a certain amount of power with the rest of the people. But the fact that he was a prominent member means that he had power even among the other powerful people. The other powerful people on the Council look to him, they wanted his wisdom, they asked for his advice. He had influence beyond that of most of the other people on the Council, he had power.

And the world says, that’s how you get your more. You gotta take it. You gotta get power, you gotta get fame, you gotta get influence. You gotta be like Joseph. Like Joseph’s social media accounts every time he posted they went viral, right? His TikTok account was fire, right? He had the ability to lead people and move them, he was prominent. But he was still looking for something that his power couldn’t provide him. He was looking for more. And so he did something interesting. He did the only thing with his power that God ever intends that we do with power. I don’t know if you know that God gives power he does. But he gives it for a reason. He gives us power so that we can help those who don’t have that power.

So what did Joseph do? He went to Pilate and he asked for the body of Jesus. Nobody else could do that. The rest of his followers were scattered. And even if they weren’t scattered, they didn’t have the authority, they didn’t have the influence, they didn’t have the power to get the body. And so everybody expected that body was staying on the cross until it started to fall apart when somebody would come along and they throw it into a trash heap like it happened with every other body that was nailed to a cross.

But Joseph said, no, no, I’m not gonna let that happen. And so he went boldly to Pilate, and he used his power to do what no one else could. Which is interesting. It’s interesting that he went boldly to Pilate, meaning he went publicly to Pilate. He went knowing that everybody was seeing what he was doing.

And the reason I say that’s interesting is because we know one other thing about Pilate, and that is that he was a secret follower. This is what John says, “Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now, Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, because he feared the Jewish leaders.” He was a secret follower of Jesus.

And that’s interesting to me. I’m gonna be honest with you, if somebody came to me and said, “Hey, I’m a follower of Jesus I’m just keeping it on the down-low. Like, don’t tell anybody.” Like I would be more inclined to call that person a fraud than a follower. Can I be honest with you? I’m just a little more judgmental than Jesus. Actually, I’m a lot more judgmental than Jesus. Because Jesus never called Joseph out on this. Jesus never saw Simon kind of on the outskirts of the crowd with his head down making sure nobody knew who he was and who he was following. Jesus never called him out.

And the reality is this. Jesus always has more compassion for the weak than admiration for the strong. He always had compassion and he saw Joseph there on the edge of the crowd and stead of calling him out, Jesus thought to himself, there’s more to that guy’s story. We’ll get there.

And besides, the reality is some people kind of start off weak and they end pretty strong, that’s what he’s doing here, right? He’s bold now. Other people start out strong, and they kind of end up weak like, Peter, remember Peter? The night before this. Peter was the guy going to Jesus, “I got your back, bro. I don’t know about the rest of these losers, especially John I’m just not sure about him, right. But man, if they’re coming for you, they’re gonna have to go through me, okay. I will die for you, Jesus.” And then they came and Peter ran. Three times he even denied he knew who Jesus was. So I don’t know what’s worse, a secret follower or a public hypocrite? I don’t know. But I know that Jesus looks at both of them and goes, what you have done doesn’t matter, it’s what you do now that matters.

That’s always the way Jesus handles us. Because your past doesn’t define you what you’ve done is not what’s important it’s what you do now. And there’s always that next chance. Jesus is full of grace, and he’s full of mercy. And maybe it was realizing that that allowed Joseph to do something more than he’d done before, to go public, to go ask for the body of Jesus.

“Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’s body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. And Joseph took the body wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and he placed it in his own new tomb.” A rich man’s tomb, “Which he had cut out from the rock. And he rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb, and he went away.”

Such an interesting thing for him to do. At this moment, it’s almost hard to understand why he would do that at this moment. Up to this point, he’s been secret, he’s been keeping his faith in Jesus under wraps. And now when he has so much more to lose because the tides turned, the enemies of Jesus are riding high, they’re looking for the followers of Jesus they’re gonna stamp this whole thing out. And it’s in this moment when he has the most to lose that he suddenly does a little more than he’d done up to this point. He kind of goes public in his support of Jesus.

Why would he do it now? I’m sure he struggled with the thought that it was too late. I don’t know if you’ve ever struggled with feeling like it’s too late. I promise you, Joseph felt like that. He felt like, I’ve done too much I missed my chance and now it’s too late. I’m always gonna be defined by what I did, I’m always gonna be defined by my past.

And as he went to Pilate, I’m sure all along the way, he was like, I’m not even sure I’ve got what it takes to go through with this. At any moment, I could still peel off, I could still head back home, and nobody needs to know that I was a follower of Jesus. I could still go home. I don’t know if I’ve got what it takes to actually walk into that man’s courtyard and ask for the body and let everybody see that I’m a follower of Jesus. And even if I have the power to do that, what’s that gonna do to my future? What’s gonna happen when they know I’m a follower of Jesus? I’m gonna lose the position. I’m gonna lose the power. I’m gonna lose the possession. My future is gonna be a mess so what am I doing here?

But his hope, his hope was drawn from what he’d seen consistently in Jesus’s own interactions with people. People who said, yeah, my past is a mess. He said I don’t have what it takes now and my future looks dismal. What Jesus said to them over and over again, and that I believe Joseph took hold of in this moment was this reality is that Jesus has forgiveness for your past, and he has power for your present. And he has hope for your future.

He has forgiveness for your past, he has power for your present, he has hope for your future. And I believe Joseph clung to that as he went. As he went thinking, “I don’t know why I’m doing this now, I should have done more before. Maybe if I’d been a little bit more public in my support of Jesus, then maybe the Council wouldn’t have turned against him in the first place. Maybe if I had been a little more public in my faith in him last night, he wouldn’t be on the cross right now. This feels like too little too late.” But do you know how much Jesus loves what we think is too little? Hear me, church, Jesus loves what you think is too little. He loves to get that little and turn it into something way more than you thought.

When my girls were little, one of their favorite things to do is, Coletta and I would hold one hand and they take these little steps, little girl steps, and then we’d swing them big. Anybody can get an amen on that. You’ve done that. You remember that?

So Jesus is like that. He loves little steps and he loves to turn them into big leaps. He goes, “I can do something more with that. You don’t feel like it’s enough don’t you worry about it, you give me what you can, you trust me the way you can and I’m gonna turn it into a whole lot more.”

And I believe that as Joseph went to Pilate, he was thinking, “I don’t get this, but I still think that he’s the Messiah, I still think he’s the Son of God. I have to believe that there’s more to the story. I don’t get this. I don’t understand what God’s doing. I don’t understand why the Messiah has been nailed to a cross. I don’t understand what you’re doing God, but I gotta believe there’s more to this story. And so I need to trust you just a little bit more.” And so he went and he asked for the body. He prepared it with his own hands. And he rolled the stone over the tomb. Which brings us to that other side of the story that I think we probably know pretty well that we’re here to celebrate right?

Three days later, a small group of women made their way in the early morning dawn, they were worried because they didn’t think they’re gonna be able to roll that stone away from the tomb. But when they got there, they realize the stone was already rolled away. And then they stuck their head in the tomb and they realize that the body of Jesus was gone. And confused and scared they turned around and there were a couple of angels who said, “What are you guys doing here? Why are you looking for the living among the dead? He isn’t here. He is risen.”

And then they turned a little farther and they saw Jesus. They met the risen Jesus. And then they ran and told his disciples and they came running and they met the risen Jesus and that changed everything. A group of people who had just a few days early had run from the threat of Roman power and the religious persecution on the hands of those religious leaders, they had run, but now they stood. They stood boldly, just like Joseph.

And over the next several years, as they told the story of having met the risen Jesus, most of them were killed for it. But because of their message, the message of the Resurrection, what had become what had once been the threat to Christianity became the greatest ally to it. The Roman Empire that had executed Jesus actually became the Holy Roman Empire. That’s the power of the Resurrection it turns enemies into advocates, turns persecution into a platform all because of the resurrection of Jesus.

The Resurrection of Jesus changed everything. It changed me 30 years ago. And my guess is a lot of you are here today because it changed you. Can I get an amen if the resurrection of Jesus has changed your life? Amen. Yeah. Amen. Listen, I don’t know what happened after the Resurrection. The Bible didn’t say anything more about Joseph, just that his little bit more set the stage for so much more. I really wish I could have seen the conversation that he had with Jesus after the Resurrection wouldn’t that be cool. What I imagine is Jesus at some point kind of pulled Joseph aside and he put his arm around him. Hi bro. That’s how Jesus talks. Just wanted to thank you for the loaner tomb. But yeah, I’m not gonna be needing it anymore. And by the way, just so you know neither are you, neither are you. You’re not going to need a tomb. I’m not saying we’re not gonna die. What I’m saying is that faith in Jesus means that our tombs are only temporary. They’re not our final resting place.

“For God so loved the world.” He so loved you, not a generic world but each and every one of you that makes up this world. “For God so loved the world, he so loved you that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him.” Not who works harder, not who earns their way into. But who simply believes, who puts their trust in him, will not perish but have eternal life.

And hope you understand that eternal life doesn’t just mean life that goes on and on and on. It’s not just a quantity of life. Eternal life is a quality of life. It’s a life that goes deeper and deeper into all of the more that we long for. The reason you long for more in life is because God created you for more. The resurrection of Jesus makes it possible for you.

I got news for you. The tomb isn’t really empty. The body of Jesus isn’t there he’s risen but the tomb is not empty. The reality is that the tomb, the empty tomb holds more for you than you can possibly imagine. Do you hear me church? The empty tomb holds more for you than you can possibly imagine. It holds forgiveness for your past. It holds power for your present, it holds hope for your future. It holds joy, it holds peace. It holds meaning, it holds significance. It’s ours to seize. It’s waiting for us to reach into the tomb and take it out.

And some of you are here today and you’ve never taken hold of any of that. This is the first time that something stirring in your heart and you’re realizing that the empty tomb holds everything that you’ve been looking for, all the more that you’ve been seeking. And you can take hold of it right now. You don’t have to earn your way into it by effort, you receive it in relationship. Jesus rose from the dead so that he can enter a relationship with you. And if you’ve never entered that relationship and begin to take hold of all the more that he has for you. You can do it right here right now.

I’m asking everybody to close their eyes, bow their heads. If you’re ready to seize the more that you were created for, the more that Jesus died for, the more that Jesus rose for, you’re gonna take hold of it in relationship. And like all relationships, it begins with a conversation. So have this conversation with God right now. Just say something like this to him.

Hi, God, I’ve sinned. I’ve done wrong and I’m sorry. I need your forgiveness. Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross for me to pay the price of my sin. I believe you rose from the dead. Now I understand that you’re offering me more, more forgiveness, power for my present, hope for my future. I’m ready to take hold of it, Lord, I’m ready to seize it. So, Jesus, I’m gonna follow you from here on out. I’m yours now and forever. Amen.

Can we celebrate those who’ve made that decision to seize the more that Jesus died and rose for today? So excited for you, we’re so excited for everything God has for you. I’m gonna ask you to be like Joseph for a second here, okay? Be bold, let us know you made that decision.

Here’s how you can do it. Easiest way just text the word “Jesus” to 80875. If you decided to start that relationship with Jesus today start following him, text “Jesus” 80875. Or on your way out if you’re one of our campuses, stop by the Welcome Center tell them, “I said yes to Jesus today.” Either way, we wanna get you some resource to help you begin seizing all this more that God created you for, that Jesus died and rose for.

And I know a lot of us have been following Jesus more than the last 30 seconds, we’ve been following Jesus for decades. And whether you’ve been following Jesus for 30 seconds or 30 years, the reality is God has more for you. He still has more for you. He’s always offering you more.

And I know there’s a part of you that goes, “Yeah, but you don’t understand my past, you don’t understand how messed up my present, you don’t understand how dismal my future looks.” And I say, “You don’t understand the Resurrection. Because the Resurrection means there is more forgiveness for your past, there is more power for your present, and there is always more hope for your future, you just have to take hold of it.”

For the next couple of weeks, we’re gonna continue to unpack what it looks like to take hold of that. So I encourage you to come back over the next few weeks as we continue to explore the more that that empty tomb holds for you.


CRAIG SMITH | read his bio



John 21:1-14

What does God want from you? The world tells us that nothing is free. When you consider God’s grace, does he require an installment plan, a work-to-earn scenario? Following Jesus will bless you, not break you. Learn more about the rhythm of giving and receiving with Jesus.

Craig: Hey, I wanna talk to you a little bit today about what God wants from you. This past weekend on Easter we talked about what God has for you, we talked about the fact that the empty grave, the empty tomb isn’t really empty, it’s actually full of all the more that we’re longing for. It’s got more forgiveness for our past and the peace that comes from that. It’s got more power for the present and the joy that comes with that. And it’s got more hope for the future, meaning, and significance. The empty tomb is full of all those things. And we take hold of them by faith, right? That’s all it takes. We put our faith in Jesus, his life, death, and resurrection. We trust him and we would get all of that stuff in return.

But I don’t know about you. See, I grew up in a family where I had a dad and I had a granddad who were constantly trying to teach me, you know, wisdom, trying to teach me how to think about the world. And one of the pieces of wisdom they both imparted to me was, “Hey, just so you know, Craig, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.”

And so I kind of came to this place where I went, you know, if something is claimed to be free, it’s probably not really free. Right? It’s probably something that you’re gonna have to pay off on an installment plan that you just didn’t fully understand when you got into the deal. I first learned this through something called the Columbia House. Yeah. The Columbia House a lot of other people got caught up in that. Yeah. The Columbia House record and tape club. Back in the day there was no Spotify, right? There was no Apple Music, so you actually had to get physical objects. You start out with records, right? And we know about records today. But then there was a weird little interlude, there were these things called tapes. And tapes, you actually sometimes you had to stick a pencil in, you had to screw it so that it worked. It was a very weird thing.

And then we had CDs, right? And they were kind of expensive, but there was the record, the Columbia House record and tape club. And they allowed you to get 12 CDs for a penny, right? And then the idea was you had to buy, like, I don’t know, like, six or seven at regular price over the next couple of years. But what they didn’t tell you was they were gonna send you a CD automatically every single month and it was really difficult to cancel that because there was no online portal, right? And so it was really hard to cancel. And so they would send them and then they would charge you for them. And actually, their regular rate was about twice what it cost you to go into a record or a CD shop and get it. And so, like, I ended up paying, like, way more for my 12 CDs than a penny. I actually paid more than I would have if I’d just gone into a store and bought 12 CDs. Anybody else kind of got caught up in that?

Yeah. Yeah. And that’s where I first kind of learned that, hey, there’s no such thing as a free lunch, right? Maybe it looks free at first, but if so you’re probably gonna have to pay it off in a big installment plan. And I think sometimes we bring that kind of idea to the Gospel. We got all this amazing stuff. All the more we long for is ours free by faith in Jesus, but I think a lot of us kind of harbor the suspicion that what God expects is that we’re gonna pay it off in an installment plan. And that can really impact the way that we relate to God. It can really… Honestly, it can leech the joy out of our relationship with Jesus. But I think a lot of us struggle with that.

So, what I wanna do today, I wanna take you to a passage that really God has been using to challenge my way of thinking about what God wants from me. Okay? If you wanna follow along, we’re gonna be in John chapter 21, starting in verse 1. John 21:1. And this is a story about something that happened after the Resurrection of Jesus. This is kind of the rest of the story. And it’s kind of interesting that there’s this weird little thing that happened. Jesus rose from the dead, he met with his disciples, everybody was super excited, and then, apparently, Jesus went away. He didn’t, like, ascend into heaven. That comes later. But apparently he, like, left the disciples and he went out and he… I don’t know. He wandered somewhere. I don’t know if he went on a walkabout. I don’t know. He went away. He disappeared for a while.

And so the disciples were kind of left in this place like, “Well, what do we do now?” And a few of them decided, “Well, I guess we should go home.” He was gone long enough that they decided to go home. They went back to Galilee where they’d first met him and that’s where the story takes place. John 21:1 says, “Now, afterward, Jesus appeared again to his disciples by the Sea of Galilee.” It’s where he’d first met a group of these guys. And so Jesus has been gone long enough that they’ve kind of gone home. It happened this way. Simon Peter, Thomas, also known as Didymus, which means twins, so he may have had a twin brother or sister, Nathaniel from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. And that’s an interesting group of people. And I think what John is doing is, he’s reminding us about the kind of people that Jesus called to himself that he invited to have a seat at the table with him.

I mean, we got Simon Peter. Simon was the guy that told Jesus the night before he was arrested, he told Jesus, “Hey, I’ll die for you.” And then when they actually came to arrest Jesus, Peter ran and then he ended up denying even who Jesus was three different times, right? So, Peter’s kind of got a little bit hypocrite in him. Right?

In addition to Simon Peter, we’ve got Thomas, also known as Didymus, but that’s not how we know him, is it? We call him what? We call him Doubting Thomas because he questioned the resurrection. He was a little skeptical about the resurrection. He wasn’t with the other disciples when they met Jesus, and so he was like, “I just don’t buy it. The guy is dead. Dead people don’t come back.” So, he’s a skeptic. He had to meet the risen Jesus before his skepticism went away.

We got Nathaniel from Cana in Galilee. And that’s interesting. Nathaniel from Cana. And I think the reason John says it that way is because when Nathaniel first met Jesus, the way it happened was some other guys met Jesus, they went with Nathaniel and they said, “Hey, I think we met the Messiah. I think we met God’s Savior. He’s Jesus from Nazareth.” And Nathaniel said, “From Nazareth? Yeah. Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Got a little, little prejudice going on there? Right? That’s a redneck kind of town. Right? And so, you know, Nathaniel is a little bit of a cynic about what God could or would do in certain kinds of places.

And then we got the sons of Zebedee. The sons of Zebedee are interesting because Jesus gave them a nickname. He called them the Sons of Thunder, which sounds like a compliment, but it probably wasn’t because these guys were…they were a little rough around the edges. They were a little judgmental, maybe not as gracious as Jesus was. At one point they were all kind of traveling through this area and there was a Samaritan Village that didn’t welcome Jesus. And so the sons of Zebedee, Jesus calls them the Sons of Thunder, they said, “Hey, Jesus, what do you want us to do? Do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume the village? Because we’ll totally do that. We are on board.” Not very gracious, a lot of judgmentalism.

And then, interestingly enough, and I feel the worst for these guys, then there were two other disciples. Like, that doesn’t feel fair, does it? Two other disciples are kind of, like, anonymous and invisible. Like, they knew John wrote that. They were like, “Why didn’t you name us?” He’s like, “Yeah, you know, there were two more.” But I wonder if you can find yourself somewhere in this group because I can. I’ve had times in my life where I probably fit every one of these guys. I’ve been a hypocrite. I’ve been a skeptic. I’ve been a cynic. I’ve been a little judgmental and a little ungracious. And sometimes, honestly, I just feel like I don’t have anything to bring to the table, kind of anonymous and invisible. And why would Jesus want anything to do with me? And if you can find yourself in that group, I think you’re supposed to because the good news is these are the kinds of people Jesus did invite to the table. These are the people Jesus invited to be part of what he did. And it was through these guys that Jesus changed the worlds.

And part of what John is helping us to understand here, reminding us, is that Jesus’s invitation to the table doesn’t depend on what we bring to it. Do you hear me? It’s so important to understand. Jesus’s invitation to the table doesn’t depend on what you bring to it. That’s not what the world teaches us. The world teaches us that you get an invitation to the table because of what you bring to it. You get invited to be part of a team because you got some kind of mad skills. You get invited to be part of an inner circle because you’ve earned it by effort. The world says if you want a place at the table, you gotta bring something to it. But Jesus’s invitation to the table doesn’t depend on what we bring to it.

Jesus never said, “Come to me all you who have something impressive to offer.” It’s not what he said. Jesus said, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened. Come to me all you who are weary and burdened.” Not who have something impressive to offer, but something who are in desperate need. Come to the table those who are worn out and in need of refreshment. Come to the table those who are feeling weighed down and need forgiveness and you need freedom. Jesus wasn’t interested in what you brought to the table. He was interested in what you needed from it. That’s how you get a seat at the table. So, if you can find yourself somewhere in this group of guys, then that’s a good thing because it means that Jesus is inviting you to the table too and has nothing to do with what you bring to it.

I don’t know what these guys were thinking. Jesus has been gone for a while and now they’ve kind of gone home, that was the natural place to go, and still they’re kind of sitting around going, you know, “What should we do now?” And, of course, Simon Peter is the one who comes up with an idea. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them. And they said, “Okay. We’ll go with you. We got nothing better to do.” Right? And there’s a part of me that goes like, “What are these guys doing? You’ve met the risen Jesus. You should be planning a mission trip, not a fishing trip.” But on the other hand, there’s a part of me that goes, “Man, after everything they’ve been through, the highs and the lows and the highs, maybe they’re doing kind of what Jesus showed them to do, which is, it’s okay to kind of step back sometimes, to breathe in, to rest a little bit. Maybe they’re just doing that.” They plan a fishing trip.

They went out and they got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing, which is so funny because these are professional fishermen. Like, this isn’t a hobby for them. This is what they do for a living. And it’s really even funnier if you read through all the Gospels, every time you see these professional fishermen fishing, they have no fish. Like, literally, they have no fish. The only time these professional fishermen actually get fish is when Jesus shows up and helps them out. I love that. And I think partly what may be happening here is a little bit of a reminder. Jesus said, “Hey, just so you know, I’m the vine. You’re just the branches. And if you stay connected to me, you’re gonna bear all kinds of fruit, you’re gonna catch all kinds of fish. But apart from me,” he said, “you can do nothing. It doesn’t matter how good your skills are, it doesn’t matter how professional you are, apart from me, you can’t do anything.” So, they fish and they get nothing.

Now, early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. And I don’t know why that was. It might be that in his resurrected state that his appearance had changed a little bit, there’s some indications that that had happened, or it could be something as simple as the fact that it’s still early morning, the sun’s not fully up yet. It’s kind of dim. They can’t quite tell who’s on the shore yet. But either way, they didn’t quite recognize who it was. And he called out to them, he said, “Friends, haven’t you any fish? Don’t you have any fish?” “No,” they answered.

And he uses an interesting word for fish. It’s not the normal word for fish. When you go fishing and you catch fish, there’s a particular Greek word you would use. This is not that word. This is the word that you use for, like, a bite of fish. It was a word that you use, basically, to say, “Hey, you wanna grab something to eat?” And you’d use this word. Basically, what Jesus is saying is, “Hey, do you have a bite to eat? Do you have a bite? You have some fish and chips, basically?” I’m hungry. And so he’s asking, “Hey, do you have anything to bring to the table?” And they go, “No, we don’t have anything to bring to the table. We don’t have any fish.”

So, he said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you’ll find some.” Just so you know, when Jesus said throw your net on the right side, this is not some veiled reference to the liberal left and the righteous right. And I know, like, 99% of you out there are going, “I would never have even thought of that.” But there’s like 1% of you who are like, “I’m gonna use that in my next debate with a Democrat.” Don’t do that. Okay. That’s not what’s happening here. This isn’t a left-right thing. This is just, like, he’s telling them to do something. He’s telling them where the fish actually are or more importantly, he’s telling them where he’s put the fish.

And when they did, when they put the net on the right side, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. That’s gonna be important here in a second. There were seven of them in the boat, but they weren’t able, even seven of them together, professional fishermen, were not able to get the fish into the boat. There were so many in the net. It was a massive catch of fish. But what’s so interesting about this, don’t miss this, is that this started out with a request from Jesus, right? He said, “Hey, do you have anything to eat?” They were like, “No, we don’t have anything to offer you. We don’t have anything to bring to the table.” He’s like, “Don’t worry about it. I’ll take care of it. Fish over there and you’re gonna find it.”

So, Jesus just supplied what he was asking them to give. Don’t miss that. It’s really important. We’re gonna see this kind of pattern over and over again in this passage. And there’s a truth here that we have to understand and if we don’t understand it, the Christian life is always gonna be harder than it was intended to be. And the principle is just this, is that Jesus only asks us to give out of what we’ve been given. Please, hear that. Jesus only asks you to give out of what he’s given to you. Jesus never asked you to give more than he’s given. That’s what we’re seeing here. And if you’re finding that you’re feeling like, “I feel like God wants more from me than I have to give,” something’s gone wrong somewhere, something’s out of whack, something’s out of rhythm because Jesus only asks us to give out of what he’s given to us.

Now, when they get this huge catch of fish, one of them realizes who’s talking to them. And then the disciple whom Jesus loves said to Peter, “It’s the Lord.” And there’s been a lot of debate over the years about who is this disciple whom Jesus loved. Kind of the traditional understanding is that it’s John who wrote this Gospel. May very well be. There’s a good argument for that. My struggle with that has always been, it’s a weird way for John to describe himself.

Some scholars think that it might actually be Lazarus because when the sisters told Jesus that Lazarus had died, they literally said, they said, “Lord, the one whom you love has died.” Same phrase. So, it might be Lazarus. I don’t really know. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter. But the important thing to understand is this is one of the unnamed disciples, one of the invisible anonymous guys that didn’t feel like they had much to bring to the table at all. And the point is, what you bring to the table has nothing to do with whether or not Jesus loves you. You might feel anonymous and invisible, but just like these two unnamed disciples, this one in that group is the disciple whom Jesus loved. Jesus’s love for you does not depend on what you bring to the table. He just loves you. Maybe you feel anonymous and invisible. Can you replace those with loved? You’re not anonymous, you’re loved. You’re not invisible, you’re loved. You’re not empty-handed, you’re loved.

The disciple that Jesus loved goes, “Wait a minute, I know what’s going on. This is Jesus. Hey…” He says to Peter, he says, “Hey, it’s the Lord.” And as soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him, for he had taken it off, and he jumped into the water. Classic Peter. Like, Peter is just like… His exuberant faith. I love that about him. Yes, he has foot in mouth disease. Yes, he does. But he’s exuberant. And this is a display of faith. He leaps into the water. Now the other disciples followed in the boat towing the net full of fish. That’s more me. Like, you’re gonna… “Okay. You go do that. I’ll take care of the fish, whatever.”

For they were not far from the shore, about 100 yards. Now, when they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it and some bread. And that’s weird, isn’t it? Jesus asked them, “Hey, do you have a bite to eat?” They were like, “No, we don’t have any to bring to the table.” He’s like, “Okay. I’ll take care of it. Here’s some fish.” They’re like, “Okay. We’re gonna take him some fish.” They get there. And Jesus is already on the shore and he’s already got a fire going in, there’s already fish, and there’s bread. They’re like, “Did you want the fish or not?” And that’s just so interesting to me.

And over the last few weeks I’ve been wrestling with, like, “Why does Jesus do this? Why does he ask them for something that he already has?” And I found myself starting to ask this question, “What if everything Jesus asks us to give is really an invitation to receive? What if everything Jesus asks us to give is actually an invitation to receive?” Because I thought back on my life and, you know, there are things that Jesus asked me to give. He asked me to give him some of my time and energy learning about him, studying the Bible, listening to gifted teachers, but the thing is the more that I give him my time to learn about him, the more that I receive confidence that I can trust him.

He asked me to give him time and energy, just spending time with him, just being with him, you know, in personal, you know, just reading the Bible to learn from it and praying and time in worship with him. But the more time I give him in those ways, then the more that I find that I have peace and joy. He asked me to live generously with my time, my talent, my treasure. But the more that I give him those things, the more that I find that I have a sense of security that’s not rooted in those things I’m giving away, it’s rooted in the one that gave them to me and now I’m giving a little bit of them back to them and I am cementing that confidence in him. And so I just feel like as I look back at my life, everything that Jesus asked me to give has actually been an invitation to receive something better, something more profound, something more powerful, something infinitely more valuable. So, what if everything Jesus asks you to give is really just an invitation to receive something more valuable that he wants to pour into your life?

It’s kind of what’s happening here. And Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you’ve just caught.” And notice the “just caught,” because Jesus only asks us to give out of what has been given. So, he says, “Bring me some of the fish.” Not all of it. Just bring some of them. And so Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and he dragged the net ashore. The net was full of large fish, 153. But even with so many, the net was not torn. And this is a loaded sentence. There are several really important things that happened here. I’m gonna break it down. The first one is that, so, Simon goes and he grabs the nets and he hauls it ashore. Now, remember, previously, seven men, seven professional fishermen couldn’t get the net into the boat. Now, Simon goes out and pulls it to shore all by himself. Does that tell us that Peter spent a lot of time at the gym? Does it tell us Peter was way up in the CrossFit circuit? No. It tells us, actually, that he received supernatural strength. Something supernatural has happened here. He has an ability to do something he would not normally have had to do. And I think it’s linked to the fact that he was the one who gave the most exuberant display of faith. He heard it was Jesus and he leaped into the water. And now he receives kind of supernatural strength to do what seven people couldn’t have done. This is so important to understand because it’s a principle we see throughout the Bible. It’s that when we give trust to God, when we give faith to God, we receive strength from God because what if every invitation to give is actually an invitation to receive?

He invites us to give him trust, and in return, he gives us strength. We see this principle all over the Bible. We have stories of men like Samson who receives supernatural strength in a moment of faith in God. We see Elijah, the prophet, who put his trust in God and was able to run without growing weary for way beyond the limits of human endurance. When we give trust to God, we receive strength from God. I love the way the prophet Isaiah puts it, “He, God, gives strength to the weary and he increases the power of the weak. Even young people grow tired and weary and young men stumble and fall, but those who hope in the Lord, those who trust in God, who give trust to God, they will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not be faint.”

When we give trust to God, we get strength from him. Jesus has come to me all who are weary. And maybe you’re here today and you’re feeling kind of weary and you’re feeling like you don’t have enough strength to be the man or the woman, the husband, or the wife, the mom or the dad, the employee or the boss, or the neighbor, whatever it is, you just feel like you don’t have enough strength to be what God’s calling you to be. Do you understand that God doesn’t expect you to have more strength than he’s given to you? And if you feel like you’ve run out of strength in some area of your life, there’s a very good chance that he’s not asking you to just push through it, he’s asking you to trust a little more. He’s not asking you to try a little harder. He’s asking you to just trust a little more. So, I want you to think of an area in your life where you’re feeling weary. I want you to think of an area in your life where you’re feeling like you’re kind of coming to the end of your strength.

And we all have those areas. I wish we didn’t. Like, I wish that putting your faith in Jesus meant that life suddenly got easy. Has anybody had that experience yet? No? Yeah. Jesus himself said, “In this life, you will have trouble.” Faith in Jesus doesn’t free us from life’s problems, but it fuels us to face them. Faith in Jesus doesn’t free life’s problems, but it does fuel us to face them because when we give faith to God, we receive strength from God. So, think about that area in your life where you’re feeling like you’ve kind of come to the end of your strength. And just ask yourself the question, “Well, what would it look like for me to give trust to God in a place where I’m desperate? I’m desperate and I feel this need to receive strength from him.” What’s that one little step of faith, of trust that you can give him in order to receive much greater strength from him?

Second thing, it’s interesting and what happens here is that he says that this net that Simon was hauling to shore it was full of large fish, 153, which is a really specific number, right? Like, that’s not a fisherman’s number. Fishermen would be like, “There’s about 200.” Right? “I mean, technically, you know, if we’re gonna count by 50s, they’re over the 50s, so now we gotta round up. Right? So, we’re over 5, round up, right? There’s about 200 fish.” But these professional fishermen they knew it was 153. And I suspect the reason that they knew that it was Jesus, like, made them count it. Okay. But what’s the significance of 153? Because it’s a weird number. It’s a big number. It’s an unheard of number. But what’s interesting is that it doesn’t have any real symbolic significance. It’s not a significant number like 3 or 7 or 12 or 40. It’s not a multiple of any of those. And you might be going, well, it’s just how many there were. Yeah, but it’s an interesting detail to include.

What’s the point of this? Now, there is probably a symbolic significance and a symbolic significance to the large group is that Jesus has basically told them earlier in their ministry, he said, “Hey, come with me and from now on you’re gonna catch people. You’re gonna fish for people.” And so this large catch of fish probably symbolizes what he’s gonna do through them, how many people are gonna come to know Jesus through the ministry of these men. It’s a large number, but we’re still left with the, “Okay. But why 153?” And the point of that I think it’s just this. It’s that every individual matters to Jesus. Every one of the fish matters to Jesus. Every one of the people matters to Jesus.

Jesus doesn’t think in terms of crowds. Yes, Jesus wants a bigger crowd. Jesus wants us, the church, to reach more people. He wants a bigger crowd, but he doesn’t think in terms of the crowd, he thinks of all the individuals who make up that crowd. Where Jesus understands that every number has a name. Every name has a story, every story has an ending, and every ending has a sequel, with God or without God, heaven or hell. Every individual matters to God, every story matters to God. And here’s the really great news, that means that you matter to Jesus. He doesn’t think in terms of generic groups. He thinks of the individuals who make up those groups. John says, “For God so loved the world…” And sometimes I think it’s easy to go, “Yeah. He loved the world. He loves humanity. That’s great.” No, He didn’t love humanity. He loves humans. He loves individual humans. He loves you. He knows your name. He knows your story. He’s counted the hairs on your head. A few of you like me are working really hard to make that job easier for everybody else. He loves you.

It also means… And this is important to understand too. It also means he loves everybody you’ll meet. He loves every individual in the world, whether they know him yet or not. He doesn’t think in terms of generic crowds. He thinks in terms of individual people that he loves deeply, that he’s obsessed with. He loves you, but it also means he loves everybody you’ll ever meet. And as a follower of Jesus, you may be the hands and feet of Jesus to that person.

I love the way that Jesus expressed his passion for each individual. He said, “Suppose one of you has hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? When he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and he goes home, and then he calls his friends and his neighbors together and he says, ‘Rejoice with me, I found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” You will never meet a person that doesn’t matter to Jesus. And you may be the hands and feet of Jesus, you may be the mouth of Jesus speaking the truth of God’s love for them, and the fact that God knows their name and he’s interested in their story, and its ending in its sequal. It’s a good news for us, but it’s also a good news for those that we serve.

And so, yeah, we’re called to live on mission with Jesus to invite others to find and follow Jesus, but we’re doing that out of what he’s already given us, right? He’s given us this confidence and his love for us individually. I think that’s the significance of this very precise catch of fish. So, I wonder if maybe it’s worth asking yourself this question, “Is there someone I’m overlooking that Jesus isn’t?” Is there someone in your life that you’re just skimming right past and Jesus is going, “Hang on a second. Slow down and look at them. See them. Be my hands and feet to them.”

It was full of large fish, 153. “But even with so many,” he says, “the net was not torn.” Which is an interesting detail because back when Jesus first invited these men to follow him they had another similar incident. It’s almost deja vu actually. They had a miraculous catch of fish with Jesus’ help. But then it says, “The nets were so full they began to break.” And now John says, “Hey, even though the net absolutely should be breaking with this massive catch of fish, then it didn’t break.”

Why is he pointing that out? He’s pointing us to a reality that I think we sometimes forget, and that is that following Jesus will bless you, not break you. Following Jesus is supposed to bless, not break you. It doesn’t mean Jesus doesn’t call us the hard things, but even in the hard things we’re supposed to find blessing, not breaking. And if following Jesus does feel like it’s breaking you, then something’s gone wrong. And it might be that you’re not actually following Jesus. You might be following the world. And here’s the thing, the world is broken. What the world offers you, the world says, “Well, I’ve got the more you’re looking for.” And the world offers a version of that, but it’s a broken version. And if you’re pursuing what is broken, all it can do is break you. So, it may be that if you’re feeling broken down that it’s not actually Jesus you’re following. And maybe you know that or maybe you’ve kind of in your mind you’ve managed to convince yourself, “No, this is actually what Jesus wants,” and it’s not.

It’s also possible that you’re following Jesus, but you’re feeling broken, and the reason for that is because you’re kind of out of rhythm. You’re not following him in the way that he calls you to follow. And what have we seen so far? We’ve seen that Jesus only asks us to give out of what we’ve been given, right? He only asks us to give after we’ve received. We’ve seen that every ask to give is actually an invitation to receive. So, there’s a rhythm going on here.

Jesus said… Again, not, “Come to me all you who have something to bring to the table.” Jesus said, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Give me yourself,” he says, “and receive rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” And that’s really interesting. Tanner, actually, you just met him a little while ago, pointed out Tuesday in our sermon review, pointed out, “Yeah. Yoke is a work word.” I was like, “You’re right. I’ve never seen that before. That’s so interesting.” Jesus has put my yoke on you. Well, yoke is a work word. It’s what you put on an ox so that it could work. Jesus didn’t say, “Come to me and put my hammock under your butt.” It’s not what he said. He said, “No, put my yoke on you.” He said, “I want you to work. I am calling you to give something but,” he says, “my yoke is easy, my burden is light.” Because Jesus is only asking us to give out of what we’ve been given.

And every invitation to give is actually an invitation to receive because there’s a rhythm. And it’s a rhythm that we see all over life. It’s a rhythm we see all over the Bible, but we see all throughout the world too. Right? Things come in and then they go out. They come in and they go out. The tide comes in and then it goes out. We breathe in and we breathe out. Do it with me. We breathe in. We breathe out. That’s life. But sometimes we just breathe in. And you know what happens if you keep breathing in? You pass out. What you’ve taken in grows stale and unusable.

You know what happens if you just give? If you just breathe out, you also pass out. You end up at the point, “I don’t have anything left to… That’s all I’ve got.” But a lot of us live right there, we look, “God, what am I doing? [inaudible 00:33:03] I don’t understand…. God’s like, “Breathe in, you idiot. Breathe in and breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out.” That’s the rhythm that God calls us to live in. He says, “Receive and give.” And in you’re giving, you’re gonna receive. And as you receive, give, breathe in, breathe out. Following Jesus is supposed to bless you, not break you. And many of us find that we’re living in a place where it’s breaking us. It’s because we’re doing it wrong. We’re living out of rhythm.

Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” The breakfast he’s already prepared for them. He asked them for fish. He gave them fish. They brought him fish. He already had fish. Now he gives it to them. He says, “Have breakfast.” He invites them to the table. Please don’t miss this. What he really wanted was just them at the table.

None of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus, he came, he took the bread, and he gave it to them. And he did the same with the fish. This is now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead. “You guys have any fish?” “We don’t have anything to bring to the table.” “I’ll take care of it. There’s some fish.” “Hey, would you bring me some fish?” They brought him fish, they found that he already had fish. Not just fish. He also had bread. He gave them more than he asked from them. He offered more than he required. They received more than they were asked to give. That’s the rhythm.

Bottom line, Jesus wants more for you than he wants from you. He wants more for you than he wants from you. If you’re here today and you’re feeling weary and burdened, please hear this truth. Jesus wants more for you than he wants from you. He has more for you than he wants from you. Now, if that’s not how you’re feeling, if you’re not feeling filled up and overflowing, then the question I think that I want you to think about this week is just this, “Am I living in rhythm? Am I living in this rhythm that we see here?” You receive, we give. Are you living in that rhythm or am I doing too much out or too much in? Those are the two places that we get kind of tripped up.

And we all do from time to time, and I’ll be honest with you, I did it this week. I got out of rhythm this week. Easter wore me out more than I thought it did. I had a pretty busy week and then Friday came and I told my wife, “Hey, let’s finish that tiling job we need to finish.” Now, my wife who was way smarter than me went, “I don’t know if that’s such a great idea. I think maybe you need to rest.” I was like, “No, it’s gonna be fine.” It was not fine. It did not go well and, like, I was kind of a jerk. I was short-tempered. I was out of rhythm. I was living… I was trying to do this in my relationship with my wife and I’m trying to get this work done and I’m like… And God’s like, “You idiot, breathe.” Right, right, right. I wasn’t doing it. I make the mistake that we all make.

So, where are you? Right. Are you living in rhythm or is it too much in and you’re holding it in? It’s growing stale? Is there too much out? And what do you need to do to get back in rhythm? Ask yourself that. What do I need to do to get back in rhythm? It’s one of two things. Start giving more. Start receiving more.

Would you pray with me? Jesus, thank you for your mercy and your grace. Thank you that you never ask more from us than you’ve given to us. We acknowledge this truth and this reality. We accept humbly the reality that everything you ask us to give is really an invitation to receive, but we often find ourselves afraid to do that because we feel like if I let go of what’s been given, then I won’t have enough and yet what we’re really asked to do is to open our hands up so that you can put better things in them. But some of us are giving too much. We’re not taking time to receive. And some of us are receiving too much. It’s growing stale and stagnant because we’re not giving, we’re not in rhythm. Lord, we fall off the roof on either side of it but we’ll ask your Holy Spirit right now to speak to us about how to get back in that rhythm. But as we sing this next song, some of us probably need to sing it, but many of us just need to sit and listen to the words of the song and to the voice of the Spirit calling us into the rhythm that you’ve set out for us. Amen.


CRAIG SMITH | read his bio



John 21:15-25

Humility is a slippery subject. It isn’t something where you can feel certain you’re doing great at being humble, or you’ve likely taken a step back on your progress. But the work toward humility is a wonderful foundation toward the “more” we are always looking for in life. We can’t achieve a level of more, instead, it has to be received.

Craig: So, I wanna talk to you today about the value of humility, which I’m gonna be honest with you, it’s kind of a tricky thing to talk about. Humility is always tricky to talk about because it’s always a possibility. I mean, let me teach you something about humility and you’re like, “I don’t know that you figured it out yet.” Right? So, just thinking you have something to say about humility, might feel like kind of a revelation that you still got a lot to learn there. And it’s always possible. Humility is a slippery subject and the lack of humility can kind of sneak up on you.

Just last week I was in a staff meeting and we were trying to figure out how to sort of deal with something that we were gonna do. And really early on in the staff meeting, I had this idea and I was like, “Oh, I think we should do this.” And so I wrote it down in my notepad. But somebody else was talking, and I didn’t wanna interrupt him because I’m a humble guy. And then the conversation, some other people had some things to say, and I was like, “Well, I didn’t wanna like force the conversation with my idea because I’m a humble guy.” And then, later on, somebody actually said the exact same idea, like, the exact same idea. And I was like, “That’s a great idea.”

And then at night, I was talking to Coletta at dinner and she asked me a question she always asks. She said, “Hey, you know what? What was a win for you today?” And it was like, “Oh, let me tell you about this thing. Like, yeah, I had this idea, but somebody else had it. And I didn’t say, ‘Oh, hey, that’s a great idea,’ because I had that same idea. Look, I wrote it in, I didn’t do that.” And she looked at me and she said it nicer than this, but this is the bottom line. What she said, she’s like, “Are you bragging about how humble you were today?” I was like, “No, yes, that’s exactly what’s happening.” Humility is just a slippery subject. But it’s a really important thing. It’s a really valuable thing.

And I wanna talk to you about the value of humility because what I’ve come to understand is that humility is actually the key to all the more that we’re looking for. Humility is the key to all the more that we’re looking for. We’ve been talking in this series about how to receive from God more peace, more joy, more hope. All the things that we’re really longing for are actually only possible when there is humility. And to show you why I say that, I wanna take you to a story in the Bible of a guy who learned kind of a hard lesson about humility from Jesus himself. If you wanna join this and follow along, we’re gonna be in John chapter 21, verse 15, John 21:15. And by the way, you can follow along in your own Bible. You can use the Mission Hills app as well. And you’ll see the verses that we’re gonna go through. And there’s some places there to take notes as well.

But while you’re making your way there, let me just say this. Let’s go ahead and define humility because I think there is a misunderstanding about humility out in the world. And the misunderstanding is that the people who are humble, they think they’re worthless, that they think, you know, well, humility means saying, “I don’t have any talent, I don’t have any ability, I don’t have any skills. I got nothing to bring to the table. I got nothing.” That’s not humility according to the Bible. I don’t know who first said this, but I think such a great definition of humility. Humility isn’t thinking less of ourselves. It’s thinking of ourselves less. Do you hear me? It’s not thinking I’m worthless. It’s just not thinking about us all that much at all. It’s thinking about other people. It’s getting our eyes off of ourselves and on to other people. So, it’s not thinking less of ourselves. It’s thinking about ourselves less. That’s what we’re talking about when we talk about the value of humility and humility being the key to all the more that we’re looking for.

And I wanna take you a story of a guy who learned an important lesson about that kind of humility. It’s a story about the Apostle Peter. And if you’re not familiar with Peter, Peter’s one of the early followers of Jesus. He went on to be probably the main leader of the early church, the early Christian Church. And Peter had all kinds of great qualities, but he had one kind of glaring weakness. And that is, he had a serious case of foot in mouth disease. He was always saying stuff that then he couldn’t actually live up to. And probably the best case of that was the night before Jesus was arrested and ultimately crucified, Jesus looked at his disciples and he said, “Hey, I just want you guys to know you’re all gonna fall away on account of me.” Meaning you’re all gonna run away when they come from me. You’re gonna run away, you’re gonna fall away.

And Peter jumped up at that point and he goes, “Even if all the rest fall away, I won’t.” In other words, he’s like, even if these other losers leave, I’m not gonna… I’m there for you. And then, unfortunately, his boldest declaration became his biggest humiliation. Because not only did he fall away, not only did he run away like everybody else, but unlike everybody else, he denied that he even knew who Jesus was three separate times. The last time he actually cussed a girl out. She’s like, “Hey, aren’t you with him?” And he cussed her out. He’s like, “No, I’m not. Leave me the beep alone basically.” And right at that moment, he looked across the way and he saw Jesus being led out towards the cross and Jesus locked eyes with him. And the Gospel accounts say that at that moment, Peter broke down and he wept.

And, you know, right after that, of course, Jesus died. He was crucified and he died. And imagine Peter felt that, that death even more keenly than some of the rest of the disciples because he’s like, “I screwed up right before he died and I didn’t have a chance to make it right. I didn’t have a chance to say, I’m sorry. I didn’t have a chance to ask him to forgive me for denying him. I knew him. He’s just dead and he’s gone. And that’s always gonna be hanging over me.” And then, of course, Jesus rose from the dead. And that was amazing. It was awesome. Jesus came back and he hung out with his disciples. And I’m sure Peter, like, the rest of them experienced joy in that. But I promised you, Peter also had this kind of looming fear that, at some point, Jesus was gonna bring up the time that his boldest declaration became his greatest humiliation. He’s gonna bring up that time, all those three times that he denied that even who Jesus was.

And that’s kind of where we rejoined the story through with this last week, we ended, Jesus is having meal with his disciples after the resurrection. And Peter’s there. John 21:15 says, “Now, when they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” And what Jesus is asking is, “Hey, Simon, do you love me more than these other guys love me? Do you love me more than the other disciples love me?” And the reason he asked that question was because when Jesus said that he was gonna be betrayed, and when Jesus said, you know, you guys are all gonna fall away, Peter said, “Even if the rest of these losers leave, I’m not gonna leave. I’m with you.” And essentially what Peter said was, “I love you more than they do. I’m more committed to you than they are. My passion is deeper than theirs. I’m more on fire for you than they are. I love you more than they do.”

And so now Jesus looks at him and he goes, “Do you still think you love me more than they do?” So, what Jesus understood was that Peter’s declaration of commitment was actually a revelation of pride. Peter thought that he was gonna do better than the other disciples because they thought he was better than the other disciples. It was a pride issue. And so what Jesus is doing, it probably feels to Peter, like Jesus is sticking the knife into the sensitive part and twisting it. But Jesus isn’t sticking a knife in. He’s more like sticking the dipstick in. You remember dipsticks, right? I mean, cars are changing, but, you know, combustion engine cars require oil to run. And if you don’t have oil, everything’s gonna go wrong, everything’s gonna seize up. And so there’s a dipstick that you use to stick down in there and make sure it’s got enough oil to run.

I know how important that is because I had a car when we moved to Colorado that burned oil really fast and it leaked oil. And I couldn’t afford to get it fixed. So, we just carried a bunch of cheap oil in the trunk, and we were constantly checking the oil level with the dipstick to see if it had enough. And one time, I forgot to do that. We started off on a trip. And I was actually out on 470 by our broadcast campus. And the car started making a kind of a, let’s call it funny noise. But I hardly had time to start to, like, “What noise is that?” And suddenly, it was making no noise. And like, I just got it off to the side of the road and smoke started billowing out. And I got the hood up and I was like, “Yeah, I burned the engine up because I forgot to check to see if it had enough oil to run.”

Well, in the Christian faith, humility is kind of like the oil for the engine. Humility is the oil that keeps everything moving. And if you don’t have enough of it, it’s gonna seize up. Things aren’t gonna work. And so what Jesus is doing when he asks this question, “Do you still think you love me more than they do?” he’s not sticking the knife in, he’s sticking the dipstick in and going, “Let’s check the humility level. I wanna see if there’s some humility there. I wanna see if some of the pride that you’ve had has been replaced with humility,” because the problem with pride, the Bible says very famously is that pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit, a prideful spirit before a fall. And that’s exactly what Peter experienced. He had a prideful declaration and that was followed immediately by a massive humiliation, a massive fall. He failed. Not just one time, three separate times. Pride goes before a fall. But the Bible also says before a downfall, the heart is haughty, it’s prideful. But humility comes before honor. Humility comes before honor.

And the reason that Jesus is kind of probing Peter’s pride, he’s checking his humility level, it’s quite simply because he actually wants to honor Peter. He doesn’t wanna hurt him. He actually wants to honor him. Jesus wants to pour more into Peter. Jesus wants to do more through Peter. Jesus has more for Peter. But he’s checking humility levels because he understands that without humility, more honor just causes more harm. Do you hear me? Without humility, more honor just causes more harm. It hurts the person who receives the honor, and it hurts other people around them. I remember several years ago, I hit this point where I was really kind of depressed because I felt like every time I looked at any kind of news, I was just seeing some story of some pastor who had kind of flamed out. Some leader of some church that got caught in sexual sins, some kind of a moral failure, some kind of abuse of power. Sometimes it was financial. Sometimes they just burned out. Sometimes it was alcoholism.

And I just felt like there was just a string of those. And I was calling one of my mentors and I said, “Man, what’s going on with all these guys?” And he said an interesting thing to me. He said, “Craig, I actually know almost all those guys. I know them personally. And they all have one thing in common.” He said every one of them succeeded before they suffered. I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “Every one of them succeeded, they got honored way before they had struggled with anything, before they suffered through anything. They got a huge platform, they had massive influence before their character had kind of caught up.” He said, “They succeeded before they suffered.” And because they succeeded before they suffered, they caused suffering. Their success led to suffering. It means that it hurt their souls. They couldn’t handle it. But it also meant that it hurt their churches. And ultimately, it hurt the cause of Christ because our culture looks at that and goes like, “Yeah, it’s what I always thought about those people who claim they follow Jesus.”

So, see, Jesus understands. He wants to do more through Peter, but he knows that without humility, more honor just leads to more harm. So, he’s checking the humility level and he says, “Hey, last time we talked, you thought you loved me more than these other guys love me. And so I’m curious, do you still think that?” And Peter answered this. He said, “Yes, Lord. You know that I love you.” And the Greek word that’s translated as yes there can mean yes, but it can also mean truly, which I actually think is a more natural translation here because Peter isn’t saying, “Yes, Lord, I do. I do love you more than they do.” He’s actually kind of sidestepping. He’s what he’s saying is, “Truly Lord, I love you.” He’s kinda sidestepping the big question. Do you love me more than those? He’s like, “I ain’t touching that one with a 10-foot pole.” Besides that, you and I both know, it’s not true. I already proved beyond a shadow of a doubt. I don’t love you more than they do. Not only did I run like they did, but I denied you three times. They didn’t do that. So, do I love you more than them? I’m not going there. But he’s says, “Truly Lord, I do love you. You know that, right?”

And by the way, if you’ve been in church a while, you may have heard a message here where somebody said that Jesus is using a different word for love than Peter is. There’s four Greek words for love. One of them is agape, which means kind of a sacrificial love. And one of them’s phileo, which means kind of a friendship love. And sometimes preachers love to go, “Yeah, Jesus says, are you willing to sacrifice for me? Do you have this sacrificial love?” And Peter says, “Well, I have phileo love. I have friendship love.” How many of you’ve ever heard something like that? Yeah. A few of you. And that might be true. I’m a little skeptical of it, partly, because John uses those two words very synonymously. He uses them interchangeably back and forth. So, I’m not sure that he’s trying to make a difference. He’s translating an Aramaic conversation. Peter and Jesus were speaking Aramaic. And when he translated into Greek, he may have just used two different words because he thought they were kind of the same thing.

But if there is a difference, it’s this, Jesus would’ve asked, “Hey, do you have a sacrificial love for me? Are you willing to die for me?” And Peter’s response is says like, “I think we both know that’s not true, Jesus. I wish it were. That’s what I claimed before, but I know it’s not now. I’m just hoping that you’ll consider me someone who loves you as a friend. Can we start there?” So, if there is a difference, what it is is that Peter’s responding with some humility. And so by sidestepping the question and maybe by using a different word, what we’re getting here is a very clear teaching that this is a humble answer. Do you hear me? This is a humble answer. Jesus gets the dipstick back out. He’s like, “Huh, there’s some humility there now. There’s a humble answer.” And that humility is really important because what Jesus wants to do is he wants to give him honor, but he’s gotta make sure the humility is there.

And so now he gets a little humility and then Jesus said, “Okay, then feed my lambs.” He says, “Feed my lambs.” And it’s interesting there, he uses a Greek word for young sheep, for lambs. And I like that because young sheep are kind of cute and lovable. Have you ever seen older sheep? They’re ugly, right? They’re not impressive. They’re not precious. Lambs are kind of precious. It’s Mary had a little lamb. It’s not Mary had a little sheep. Okay? Mary had a little lamb because they’re precious. And what Jesus is communicating here is that his lambs are precious to him. Okay? He said that he’s the Good Shepherd. He loves his lamb so much he would lay down his life for them. And now he’s basically saying to Peter, “I’m gonna entrust their care to you.” And do you understand that this is an honor? Jesus is honoring him, but by trusting him with the care for his lambs.

It’s like, listen, you know, apart from my wife, my two daughters are the most precious people in the world to me. And to the extent that as their father, I have the privilege of calling them kind of my daughters. They’re my most precious possessions in some ways. And it kills me that someday, some dude, he’s gonna come along and he’s gonna wanna marry them. And by the way, if somebody watching this, that ever turns out to be you, right, you gotta come talk to me first. Okay? So, some dude’s gonna come talk to me and he is gonna say, “Hey, I love your daughter, and I would like to marry. Can I have your permission, can I have your blessing to marry?” And if, if I say yes, if, you need to understand that it’s gonna be because I am honoring you. When I say yes, I’m honoring you because I am entrusting to your care something that is deeply, profoundly precious to me in a way I don’t really have words for. And that’s what’s happening here. Peter displays a little humility and Jesus says, “Okay, then I want you to care for my lambs.” He’s honoring Peter.

But notice the progression, the honor comes after what? It comes after the humility. The humility comes before honor so that it doesn’t do harm. Jesus is honoring Peter because he’s seen some humility. And so he knows maybe you can handle the honor now. And again, Jesus said, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” And he answered, “Yes, truly Lord, you know I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” Even the ugly ones, apparently. And the third time he said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” And Peter was hurt. He was hurt because Jesus asked him a third time. Do you love me? And so he said, “Lord, you know all things, you know that I love you.” And Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.” So, why does he have this conversation three times? Why does he ask the question three times? And understand it’s not because Jesus is unsure. It’s not like he asked him, you know, “Do you love me?” And he got an answer back and he’s like, “Yeah, I’m just not sure I buy it. Let me lean in. Let me ask again. I need you to convince me.” Jesus isn’t looking to be convinced, because notice what he does each time he asks the question, he also bestows the honor.” Each of the three times that he asks the question, he bestows the honor. Clearly, Jesus is convinced that there’s humility, so why does he ask it three times? And the answer’s very simple. It’s because Peter failed three times. And for each of the times that Peter failed, Jesus is forgiving him. For each of the times that Peter fell, Jesus is reaching down and he is lifting him back up.

And this is so powerful because there’s a promise and a principle here. Okay? That the promise very simply is this. The promise is this. Jesus will never give up on you. And I guarantee you that there’s somebody listening today that is the reason you’re here because you needed to hear that you feel like you’ve fallen one too many times. You feel like you failed once too often, and you need to hear that Jesus is looking at you going, “There’s no such thing.” Jesus never gives upon us. Jesus will never give up on you. Is that good news, church? Can I get an Amen if it is? Amen. Yeah, it’s good news for me. Jesus will never give up on you. Every time you fail, there is forgiveness if you just ask for it. And there’s a principle here too, and the principle is this, it’s that humility comes before forgiveness. For each of the times that Jesus forgives him, he also elicits a response of humility. Humility comes before forgiveness.

Why is that? Because to receive forgiveness, there’s three things that have to happen. And without humility, none of them are possible. The first thing is to receive forgiveness, we have to admit we need it. Okay? We can’t go, “Yeah. I’m gonna want some forgiveness from you because I know that you think I did something wrong.” No, no that’s it. To receive forgiveness is the first thing we have to do, whether it’s with God or with another human being is we have to go, “I know I did something thing wrong.” We have to admit we need it. And that takes humility. Second thing is to receive humility, we have to ask for it. We have to go, “I realize I don’t deserve it; I realize I haven’t earned it; I realize you don’t actually owe it to me, but will you forgive me?” That takes humility. And then third thing is to receive humility, we have to accept it. We have to accept it knowing that we didn’t earn it, knowing that we don’t deserve it, but what we have to accept it and then move forward as though that the one who’s given it has actually given it. And that takes humility.

I struggle with that one. And when my wife and I have a conflict and I realize that I’m wrong and I admit it and I ask for forgiveness, I struggle with the accepting part of it. Maybe you do too, because there’s a part of me goes what? “But I’m gonna make up for it. I’m gonna fix it. I’m gonna do better. And I’m gonna make you glad that you forgave me.” But what I’m really doing is, is I’m allowing pride to say, “I think if I work hard enough, I can actually deserve it.” Humility is not, I don’t deserve it so I just have to accept it. I just have to receive it.

And this is interesting because forgiveness is one of a number of things that we all desperately need, and that we can’t take for ourselves. Forgiveness, like many other things that we long for in life, is not something we can achieve, it’s only something we can receive. And we’re talking this series about the more that we’re longing for. And so much of the more we’re longing for cannot be achieved, it can only be received, which means that humility is so critical to all the things we’re longing for, that we’re hungering for. In fact, here’s what I’ve come on to understand. I’ve come to understand without humility, you’re always gonna be hungry. Without humility, you’re always going to be hungry for something that you can’t earn. You can’t get the world says, “Hey, there’s all kinds of things that you can achieve. And if you just achieve these, you’ll be satisfied.” But it doesn’t work that way. I mean, you can achieve possessions. Absolutely you can. But that doesn’t bring the joy that we’re hungry for. That can only be received, not achieved.

The world says you can achieve positions, but that doesn’t deliver the peace that we’re hungry for. That can only be received. The world says you can achieve fame, you can achieve influence. But that doesn’t produce the love we’re craving. The more that we’re really hungry for can’t be achieved, it can only be received. And without humility, we can’t stretch out our hands to receive it. So, without humility, you’re always going to be hungry. And Jesus is probing Peter’s pride. He’s checking his humility level because there’s an honor that he wants to bestow. And yes, he failed three times. But three times, he lifts him back up. Yes, he screwed up three times, but three times Jesus forgives him. But humility was key to that.

And then Jesus said to him, “Very truly, I tell you when you were younger, you dressed yourself and you went where you wanted. But when you’re old, you’ll stretch out your hands and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. And then he said to him, “Follow me.” So, the conversation takes kind of a strange turn, right? Peter’s just been restored and I’m sure he feels it at this point, he understands, “Oh, okay. I’m forgiven, like, I’m free. And you’re still giving me a place in your plan. That’s an amazing thing.” And then Jesus says, “Yeah, and here’s how you’re gonna die.” What? And what we need to understand is that what Jesus is telling him is, is he’s describing a humble death. This is a humble death, right? He says, “You know, right now you get to choose your own clothes, you get to decide what you’re gonna wear. But there’s a time coming that other people are gonna dress you.” And the implied bit is, and they’re not gonna dress you the way you’d prefer. He says, “Now, you get to go wherever you want, but there’s a time coming that you’re gonna be led to where you don’t want to go.” He’s describing a humble death.

And legend says that Peter was ultimately crucified for his faith in Jesus. And legend says that he actually chose to be crucified upside down as an act of humility. He didn’t wanna be mistaken for Jesus. And that might be true. There’s no good historical records for it. So, I’m reluctant to go too far down that road. But what we know for sure, from what Jesus says here in the Word of God, is that Peter was going to die a humble death. But John says, Jesus wasn’t digging the knife in. He was actually talking about humility to set the stage for something really good. He said, Jesus told him this, right? Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. He said that Peter’s humble death would actually bring glory to God. And so Jesus looked to Peter and said, “Follow me. Follow me and live humbly.” Because Jesus is the prayer perfect example of humility. Jesus is the only one who never had any reason to be humble. He’s the Lord of lords. He’s the King of kings. He’s the only human being who’s ever walked the face of the earth and had no reason to be humble. And yet, he was more humble than everybody else. Book of Philippians says that he humbled himself even to the point of becoming obedient to his Father, to death on the cross, most humiliating kind of death. So, Jesus says, “Peter, follow me. Follow me humbly. And it’s gonna produce glory.”

Humility comes before honor. Humility comes before forgiveness. And now we see that humility comes before glory. And, yeah, it’s glory to go God. And without humility, we wouldn’t even care about that, right? Without humility, we’d be like, “Why would I wanna give God glory? I wanna bring myself glory.” But humility says, “No. I actually wanna see God glorified.” And because not only does that bring glory to God and that’s good, but it’s also good for other people. Because when God has given glory, he shines and other people are drawn to him and their forgiven of their sins. They enter eternal life with him. They join us on mission sharing the good news of the Gospel. And that’s really good for them. So, it’s good for God and it’s good for them. It just doesn’t have anything to do with me, right? Well, it does actually.

When we give God glory and that glory is good for other people, it actually ends up being good for us too. The Bible says, he meaning God, “He mocks proud mockers, but he shows favor to the humble and the oppressed.” Literally, he gives grace to the humble and the oppressed. He gives good things to the humble. Things that they can’t deserve, things they can’t earn, but he gives good things like forgiveness, like joy, like hope, like peace, like meaning significance. He pours those out on the humble. That’s why I say that humility is the key to all the more that we’re looking for. Humility is the key. It unlocks the more that we’re really hungering for that nothing in the world can provide. We can’t take it for ourselves. Pride says we can take what we want. Humility knows, no, we can only receive what we need. But humility’s hard. Can I get Amen in on that? Amen.

Anybody feel like they’ve just nailed this humility thing? It’s a trick question. And even Peter is still struggling with it. So, Jesus tells him how he is gonna die. It’s a humble death. And then Peter turned and he saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. This was the one that had leaned back against Jesus at the supper, and had said, “Lord, who’s gonna betray you?” Now, when Peter saw him, he asked “Lord, what about him?” You understand, Jesus just said, “Here, it’s how you’re gonna die, Peter.” And Peter’s like, “Huh, thanks for that.” Not what I was hoping for. It’s not a blaze of glory. Everybody wants to die in a blaze of glory. This is a very humble death. It’s not quite what I was looking for, but oh, how’s he gonna die? That’s what he’s asking. What about him? How’s he gonna die? And the reason he’s doing this is because he’s still struggling with a little bit of pride. Like, all of us pride doesn’t just go out the window, never to return. It’s always trying to get its way back in.

And we know this is pride because here’s the thing, pride thrives on comparison. Do you hear me? Pride thrives on comparison. Pride loves to go. “No, you’re not perfect, but you are way better than he is.” “No, no, no. You’re not the best mom ever. But did you see that mom in the grocery store with those kids? You’re doing well, you’re killing it.” Pride magnifies our supposed strengths, and it minimizes our weaknesses. But at the end of the day, it puts our eyes thoroughly back on ourselves. It’s a mirror that we just stare at ourselves in. Pride says to Peter, yeah, you’re gonna die a humble death. That’s no good. But maybe it’s not as bad as maybe some of them will have an even more humble death. So, ask about him to put it in perspective, right? So, you can still hold on to some sense that you’re good enough.

And Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? What’s that got to do with you? You must follow me.” Now, because of this, the rumor spread among the believers that this disciple would not die, but Jesus did not say he would not die. He only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?” In other words, Peter, we’re not talking about him. I’m talking about you. I’m inviting you to follow me in humility.

Stop looking for comparisons. Because the reality is that comparison is the enemy of humility. Comparison’s the enemy of humility. We compare and we inevitably find people that we’re doing a little better than, and that better than turns into good enough. I do it. I wish I didn’t, but I do it. I’m tempted to compare myself to other pastors and what God’s doing in their churches and what happened this past Easter in terms of their baptisms, or their salvation, or the people who showed up and all that junk, I’m tempted to do that. You’re tempted to do it. You’re tempted to compare your husband to her husband. Or your role as a mom to the way she’s doing as a mom. As men, we compare how much money we make, how much money he makes, what kind of car they drive, or kind of husband he is, or what kind of dad he is compared to me. We’re all driven by that.

But that works against this humility that’s so important. Comparison is the enemy of humility. And humility is so important because Peter, years after this conversation with Jesus, Peter wrote a letter to the church that he had been privileged to lead for many years. And these are the words that he said to that church. He said, “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another.” Again, humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, it’s not thinking you’re worthless. It’s in the context of other people, it’s thinking of yourself less. It’s thinking about other people more. He says, “Clothe yourself with humility toward one another because God opposes the proud, but he shows favor, he gives grace and good things to the humble.” He said, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand that he may lift you up in due time.” He says humility is gonna be really good for you because humility allows us to receive from God all the more he created us for. Humility allows us to receive from God all the more that we’re hungering for.

So, my question is this, what’s your next step forward in humility? Because the good news is you can grow in humility. It’s not that you’re either humble or you’re not. It’s something you can grow in. So, what’s your next step forward to grow in humility, knowing that it’s the key to receiving the hope, and the joy, and the peace, and the meaning and the significance, and all those things that God actually created us to experience? But that we can’t without humility. How do you grow in humility?

What’s your next step? Let me give you three things you might think about doing. Number one, start praying. The Bible says that humility is a gift of the Spirit. It’s a fruit of the Spirit, which means that God longs to build more humility in us. Now, I just wanna warn you. If you pray for God to give you humility, it’s not gonna be fun. It’s gonna be good, but it’s not gonna be fun because we don’t usually grow in humility by God going, “Well, let’s just see if I can throw a ton of honor on you and see if it goes okay.” Now, God loves you too much for that. It’s a dangerous prayer, but it’s a powerful prayer. And it’s a valuable prayer because humility is such a valuable thing. So, that’s the first thing you can do. You can start praying for it.

So, the second thing you can do is you can stop comparing, right? And maybe even do this. I’m gonna challenge you this week to think through your life, take some time to reflect, think through your life and find those places where you’re most likely to compare. What you’re often gonna find is those are kinda like red flags. Go, “There’s pride here, there’s a stronghold of pride in this area of my life.” Find those areas you’re most likely to compare. And then just ask for God to give you the strength not to do that anymore, because that’s key. Comparison’s the enemy of humility.

And then the third thing is I’m gonna say start serving. And this is the tricky one because sometimes we can like, “Look how good I am at this serving business.” Humility is slippery, tends to slip away. But there’s tremendous power that comes from serving others.

When I was a senior in the seminary my last year, I got an honor. I was given the senior preaching award. And they actually, I shared it with another guy and they told me this never happened in the history of the seminary. We had two guys that were equally good and I was like, “Huh. I’m not sure that’s true. Actually, if you’d asked me, I would’ve told you actually I think my message is better, but whatever, you know.” But it was a huge honor. And not long after seminary I actually began a kind of a speaking ministry. I started, you know, doing conferences, things like that. And I think there was a part of me that went, yeah, because I know God’s gift to me as a communicator. I’m probably gonna get to talk to some pretty big crowds. And what I found was that for several years, I talked primarily to, like, middle school retreats, sometimes, like, 11 kids. And I got a lot of those. They weren’t big crowds. They were these little things. And I’ll be honest with you, at first, I struggled with that. I looked at friends that were leading larger churches or they had bigger speaking opportunities, and I compared, and it’s hard.

And then the Holy Spirit began to do something in me. And I began to look at the opportunity to speak to 11 middle schoolers as a gift. I began to realize that, “Man, I love it when I can see, and I can see when there’s only a love and I can see when the light bulb goes on.” They’re like, “I get it. I get the Gospel. I get what God’s calling me to. I get what it looks like to follow Jesus.” And I could see that. And that was a gift to be able to see that light bulb turn on. And I began to realize it, it’s a gift. It’s a privilege to serve these middle school students. And then I began to realize it’s a privilege and a gift to serve their youth pastors who are often tired and worn out and to come alongside them on the retreat even, and just be a support to them and lift their arms up. And I began to go, “God, thank you for each one of these opportunities.” I began to see it as an opportunity to really serve. And I don’t know that it always works this way. But I can tell you in my life, it wasn’t until I began to see the privilege that came from serving those 11 middle school students, that the crowds started to get a little bit bigger. That serving created a humility that I’m so glad God didn’t give me a bigger crowd. He didn’t give me more honor before I was ready to handle it.

And the thing is like, I’m hesitant even to tell you guys that, because it kind of sounds like I’m saying, “You see, I figured out this humility thing.” And I hope you’re just gonna hear my heart and not hear what I’m not trying to… I’m just, I’ve seen it in my own life. I’ve struggled with pride and I’ve seen what it looks like to walk the hard road. But understand that God loves us too much to give honor that’s just gonna cause harm. And so much that God wants to point in your life. It comes because God is longing to pour that into you. And humility’s the key to receiving what all you’re achieving is gonna come short on.

Would you pray with me? Jesus, thank you for your example of humility. We’re grateful for it. And we ask that your Spirit would move us towards humility right now. And I believe that there are people listening to this message today that their next step forward in humility is actually to do what we’d said needed to be done with you to admit that they need forgiveness, to ask for it, and then to accept it, to receive it. There are people here who have never said yes to what Jesus did on the cross for them. And if that’s you, I wanna encourage you to take that step today. Today is the day.

Jesus died on the cross to pay for your sin. He has forgiven you. But to experience that and to be adopted into his family, to have eternal life, you have to accept that, you have to ask for it, accept it. And so if you’re ready to say yes to following Jesus and receiving all that he has for you, here’s how you do it. So, you’re just gonna have this conversation with God, say something like this right now. “God, I’ve sinned. I admit it. Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross for me. I could never earn a place in heaven, so I’m asking you to forgive my sin and to give me a place. Jesus, I accept your forgiveness, and adoption into your family. I’m gonna follow you from here on out.” Amen.

Hey, can we just celebrate those who made that decision today? If you made that decision for the first time today, I’m gonna ask you to do one more humble thing that is to let us know, text the word “Jesus” to 80875. Let us know you made that decision. We’ll get you some resources. If you’re one of our campuses, you can also stop by the Welcome Center. Tell them you said yes to Jesus. They can give them to you right there. Or if you’re watching online, there’s a button right below me. You can click on that, but let us know.