(Clip of “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”)
(Clip of “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”)
We all know this story. Indiana Jones was forced to pass through three challenges in order to reach the Holy Grail and save his father from death. These tests were designed to prevent the faithless from reaching the cup. Dr. Jones, Indy’s dad, had uncovered ancient material that described these perils, and he had recorded them in the book we saw Indy use. In order to succeed, Indiana had to decipher the riddles in the diary to make it through the maze of dangers, or die in the process.
The last trial before entering the inner room containing the grail was the leap of faith. From Indy’s perspective, he was stepping out into thin air over a deep chasm. But the prospect of losing his father motivated him to make the leap. As you saw, amazingly a ledge, which was camouflaged from anyone trying to cross, caught him! He had firm ground upon which to walk!
We, too, are called to make leaps of faith, but we don’t have to step out into thin air uncertain of what is ahead. We jump, knowing that we step into the arms of Jesus. He is the steady ledge upon which we walk. His strength is sure, and his hold upon us is certain!
If you have children, you know that they are at first reluctant to jump into deep water. But when one of their parents is in the water with arms outstretched, they know that they have nothing to fear and will gladly and even eagerly jump because they totally trust them! I have never been much of a swimmer, but I always liked being in the water! When I was about seven, I went on a trip with an aunt and uncle, and we went swimming at our resort. Not being a strong swimmer, I wanted to stay in the shallow water, but my uncle forced me into water over my head. He tried to make me lie on my back and float, but I simply didn’t trust him to get me if I started to go under, so I refused to cooperate with him. (I still remember how angry he was!) To take a leap of faith means that you must trust the one who will catch you! Faith has an object; it is in something or someone who will protect you when you leap!
This week we looked at the faith of the apostle Peter. We saw him step out in faith because he believed that Jesus had the power to catch him.
Look at Mt. 16:13-17:
When Jesus came to the area of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They answered, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “You are blessed, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father in heaven!
Peter stated his faith in Jesus’ identity as the Messiah or Christ, the Son of the living God. Peter’s confession meant that he knew Jesus had the power to hold him; he would not fall.
The word Christ is the Greek word for the Old Testament Hebrew word Messiah; both literally mean “anointed one”. In that day the king was anointed with oil to represent him as God’s chosen one. By the time of the New Testament, the Jews were looking for God’s anointed one, a king who would lead them out of subjection to the Romans and restore the monarchy to Israel.
The Bible is God’s revelation to mankind because we cannot know God unless he shows himself to us. Remember what we discussed last week? Our view of God has been obscured. But God wants people to know him so he revealed himself in a personal way to many; he also had men write down what they saw him do and what they heard him say so that later generations of people could also know him.
Some of those writers were the Old Testament prophets who were sent by God to speak for him to his people. Over time they helped the Jews know more about the messiah. Let’s look at a couple of their predictions in order to better understand what Peter was saying when he called Jesus the Christ or Messiah.
Isaiah the prophet lived hundreds of years before Jesus was born; yet, he wrote some very specific prophecies about the Messiah in Is. 9:6-7:
For a child has been born to us,
a son has been given to us.
He shoulders responsibility
and is called:
Prince of Peace.
His dominion will be vast
and he will bring immeasurable prosperity.
He will rule on David’s throne
and over David’s kingdom,
establishing it and strengthening it
by promoting justice and fairness,
from this time forward and forevermore.
The Lord’s intense devotion to his people will accomplish this.
The Jewish people were expecting a king to come and deliver them from foreign oppression and rule. This passage shows us why they believed this; it says that he will have a vast dominion, or your translation may say kingdom. The anointed one would rule David’s kingdom. David, of course, was the Old Testament king of Israel. Because of his faithfulness and love for God, God promised him that his descendants would rule forever. Jesus was his great, great, great, and so on grandson who will someday fulfill this prophecy when he returns again to rule over all.
Look also at Is. 11:1-5:
11:1 A shoot will grow out of Jesse’s root stock,
[Jesse was King David’s dad]
a bud will sprout from his roots.
11:2 The Lord’s spirit will rest on him –
a spirit that gives extraordinary wisdom,
a spirit that provides the ability to execute plans,
a spirit that produces absolute loyalty to the Lord.
11:3 He will take delight in obeying the Lord.
He will not judge by mere appearances,
or make decisions on the basis of hearsay.
11:4 He will treat the poor fairly,
and make right decisions for the downtrodden of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and order the wicked to be executed.
11:5 Justice will be like a belt around his waist,
integrity will be like a belt around his hips.
Again Isaiah says that David’s descendant would rule with justice and power.
When Peter declared that Jesus was the Messiah or Christ, he expressed his faith that Jesus would fulfill the promises that God had spoken to his people hundreds of years before. Although Peter probably understood the messianic predictions to mean physical rule only, he had faith that Jesus was the one.
Peter not only called Jesus the Messiah, he also said that Jesus was the Son of the living God. Although he likely didn’t yet grasp the full significance of that statement either, he spoke truth because God revealed it to him. This truth was proven by Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Jesus is God himself, the God-man, who came to earth as a man to die in our place and rescue us from the effects of sin both now and forever in heaven. Jesus came to re-align our lives with his, to remake us into his image, as we saw last week.
When Peter made this statement about Jesus, he made a leap of faith. His co-workers and friends, the other eleven disciples certainly weren’t saying anything. They may have believed it, also, but Peter alone stated his faith.
We, like Peter, leap based on the knowledge that Jesus is the Messiah or Christ and that he is the unique God-man. We also make it because—
When Jesus called Peter and the other fishermen to follow him, they had already seen him turn water into wine and heal the sick. They had heard John the Baptist testify of his identity as messiah. They had watched him cause a huge catch of fish when they had not been biting. The evidence was overwhelming that Jesus had the power to catch them.
Today, there is even more evidence of Jesus’ power and identity from later events recorded in the New Testament, which was written by those who watched and heard Jesus. Although he doesn’t walk bodily among us today, we have the advantage of hearing through the scriptures from those who knew him best.
To follow Jesus there is an initial leap of faith that we must make. It is made unaided; our parents and friends cannot make it for us. We don’t inherit our faith; we must believe for ourselves. In fact, we may have to stand alone to follow Jesus, just as Peter alone made his confession. But if we truly believe that he is who he claimed to be—Messiah, God himself, then, we eagerly leap into his arms, knowing that he will catch us and keep us safe. Just as Indiana Jones left the safety of the rocks to step out over the chasm, we must leave our security, what we have known before, to take a leap of faith.
Some of you may have never heard that Jesus is God who came to earth as a man and died for you. You may not have ever realized that he desires a personal relationship with you. He calls you to follow him, just as he did Peter, to walk daily with him and know him personally. Peter left his livelihood to follow Jesus. It was risky. In the same way, Jesus calls each of us to jump and take his hand; he calls us to leave behind our old lives and follow him in a new relationship; and he promises to lead us on day by day. As you observe him and begin to recognize him as God, you will begin to trust him more and more. If you have questions or want to talk to someone about what it means to follow Jesus, I know that your small group leader or your friend who invited you here would love to visit with you about who Jesus is and how to take a leap of faith into his arms.
But faith is not a one-time thing. Faith is the lifestyle of one who follows Jesus. Faith is about trusting him to see us through the ups and downs of life today. Faith grows in time and with experience. We saw that this week as we studied Peter and his faith. Once Peter saw Jesus rise from the dead, he could stand before thousands on the day of Pentecost and declare Jesus to be the Messiah. This was the same man who had denied him three times a few weeks earlier.
Every January for a number of years, I have asked God to show me what quality he wants to work on in my life that year. I ask him for a verse based on that quality so that I can pray and believe it for my life. But for years now, I have been stuck on this quality of faith. I am apparently a remedial student!
But the truth is that none of us ever gets to the point of complete faith. It is something that God continues to build in us for the rest of our lives. But hopefully, we do grow to trust God more year by year as we continue seeing His greatness. It’s not so much how much faith we have; it’s how big we realize our God is. We only need faith the size of a grain of mustard seed to believe that he has the power to hold us. Then, even when it’s hard and the struggle is great, we can trust because of his greatness, not because we have great faith!
Let’s think a minute about what faith looks like. If we truly trust in the greatness and goodness of God, we will entrust our children to him instead of trying to control them. We will entrust our husbands to him rather than trying to change them—that’s a big one! We will believe God has our good in mind when the future isn’t turning out as expected, when we don’t have the husbands, children, or success we wanted. Faith means that we will believe that his will is best rather than trying to manipulate our own will to come to pass. We will look for his purposes in the job situation where he has us rather than automatically leave when it is difficult. We will seek his will rather than follow the easy path. We will know that he is able to turn around the hearts of those around us when we reflect glimpses of godliness before them. We will trust him for our futures when we face illness and for comfort when we face grief. We will remain faithful to him even when life is hard and we don’t understand. We will trust him to provide when a hurricane destroys all that we own.
If you want your faith to grow so that you trust Jesus like that, I would suggest keeping a written record of the times he is faithful; write down the situations when he catches you. Go back and review what you have written frequently. Then, when you are faced with a leap of faith, you will trust him enough to jump!
As Peter watched Jesus and began to realize who he was and what great power he had, he was willing to take a leap of faith. We see the story in Matt. 14:22-33. Matthew is the only gospel writer who tells what Peter did.
Let’s look again at Matt. 14:22-33:
Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of him to the other side, while he dispersed the crowds. And after he sent the crowds away, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone. Meanwhile the boat, already far from land, was taking a beating from the waves because the wind was against it. As the night was ending, Jesus came to them walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the water they were terrified and said, “It’s a ghost!” and cried out with fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them: “Have courage! It is I. Do not be afraid.” Peter said to him, “Lord, if it is you, order me to come to you on the water.” So he said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat, walked on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind he became afraid. And starting to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they went up into the boat, the wind ceased. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Peter alone of all the disciples had the faith to ask Jesus to call him out on the water. Peter alone experienced the feeling of being able to walk on the water’s surface. Just imagine! Think about doing that! He made a leap of faith and was blessed for it!
But then Peter’s faith disappeared, just as mine often does! He began to look around at the strong wind and began to think about the danger that he was in and lost it! When his faith left him, he began to sink. Don’t you just love Peter? He’s so like us—walking on water one minute and drowning the next!
The faith of a mustard seed moves mountains. If we never seem to move mountains, we can be sure that our faith is even smaller than that! We may be like the other eleven disciples who just sat there watching Peter get out of the boat instead of stepping out in faith themselves. If we don’t leap, we’ll never see the mountains move.
What are you facing that requires a mountain to move? Have you asked God for his will in the situation so you know when and if to leap? That is what Peter did; he didn’t jump until he heard Jesus call him to come.
Take a leap of faith, knowing you step into the arms of Jesus and—
It’s not a matter of our being able to leap out in any situation. We step out only at his command. But when Jesus calls us to come, we can leap with confidence because he will catch us! Once we know God’s will, we step out in confidence, even when our faith is small, because we know that God has the power to accomplish his will.
And let me say this: sometimes we leap and stay right where we are. Sometimes we don’t change anything about our lives or circumstances, but we leap to the safety of Jesus’ arms in the midst of a tough situation. We leap, telling him that we trust him to move right there.
Leaping is scary, and our tendency is to stay where it’s safe. But Peter alone experienced walking on water because he alone had the faith to do it. Although he got scared and starting going under, Peter did walk on the water!
Five and a half years ago I came to Northwest. At the time I was the Director of the Women’s Ministry at the church where I had been a member for years. It was safe there; I knew the women and the other people; they knew me. I knew how things worked and what was expected of me. I knew what women I could count on and who had gifts for certain responsibilities. It would have been easy to stay. But God called me to leap. In fact the picture that kept coming to my mind as I prayed about whether to come here was a cliff. I really saw myself stepping right off of that cliff. And I hate heights! So this wasn’t a picture that would have attracted me here! But I knew deep inside that Jesus was there to catch me. I wasn’t leaping into nothing, but I was stepping into his arms. It wasn’t the easy choice, but you can’t make any other decision when Jesus is calling you to come.
What about you? What has God put in your heart to do? What leap does it require? What sacrifice will it take?
Close your eyes, ladies. If you have never taken that initial leap of faith to Jesus, see yourself at the edge of a chasm, stepping out in faith to follow him, leaving behind your old life, the life you know, the life that doesn’t work! Or if you have been following Jesus, see yourself leaving behind the security and safety of what is easy and leaping to Jesus because you hear him call. His arms are there outstretched to catch you!