Faith Works!

Text: Mark 14:12-21

Proposition: The precision of the Father in not only giving detail but fulfilling detail is meant to produce in the believer a confidence of faith that works.

Introduction:  It is Thursday morning, the 14th day of Nisan, the first month of the year in the Jewish calendar. It would be like the morning of December 25 for us, a time of expectation and excitement and celebration. Family will gather, there will be special times of worship, feasting and a sense of great joy. It was Thursday morning, the morning of the Passover. Four days earlier, on the 10th of Nisan, a lamb had to be chosen and set aside for the Passover day (see Exodus 12:2-6). We would remember that 10th day of Nisan as Palm Sunday, the day that Jesus was publicly identified with Israel. The Passover lamb was to be kept by the people for these four days that they would know it and begin to understand that by a lamb’s death a wonderful thing had been made to occur. The first Passover over was an event that took place in Egypt in about 1450 B.C., so for about 1500 years the Jews were remembering its significance and were, in obedience to God, observing it as a landmark that pointed to the future. For 1500 years, on one day of the year, they would remember that the blood of a lamb had become for them the sign by which death passed over them. The death of all the first born of Egypt had been the final act of conviction for the Pharaoh. It was this loss of human and animal life over all Egypt that convinced him to let a population of almost 2 million Jews go. They had held them in captivity for almost 430 years and this man power pool, which was now the  economic engine of Egypt, was about to be cut loose. What is the main lesson of the Passover… it’s that through the blood of the lamb comes freedom. So perhaps Passover was more like the 4th of July, a day that celebrated their national freedom and yet God was whispering into their ear that there was an even greater freedom which He was picturing in the Passover. For 1500 years a male lamb, without spot or blemish, was chosen by a family on the 10th of Nisan and then at twilight on the 14th of Nisan it was killed. Though the blood was no longer put on the door posts, still it was the life’s blood of the lamb that pointed to the ultimate freedom that God had in mind. It’s Thursday morning on the 14th day of Nisan and the rehearsals of 1500 years are complete, this is the day that God had intended as the day of ultimate freedom from the worst slavery of all. This was the day that sin and Satan and death itself would be ousted as the Pharaohs of mankind’s slavery. It was Thursday morning, the 14th of Nisan and the Lamb who could see what was about to occur directs His disciples. Turn to Mark 14: 12-21.

I. Faith Works! It’s Not Just a Motto, It’s a Biblical Truth.                                               Have a look at the parallel account in Luke 22: 8. “And He sent Peter and John saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us that we may eat.” So they said to Him, Where do you want us to prepare?” The answer that Jesus is about to give sounds a lot like the directions He gave to two other disciples on the morning of Palm Sunday. He directed those two to go and look for something specific, in that case a donkeys’ colt, to bring it to Him and if any should ask why, they were to tell them the Master has need of it. It’s quite similar to what Jesus is about to now say to Peter and John. They are simply to go into the city and look for something that seems a little out of place. It was a man carrying a picture of water. Usually this was work done by the women of the house and it would be unusual. So it was a little like walking into the city but not really knowing where you are going. It meant they needed to be watching and ready to follow this fellow whom they had never met to a place they had never been in order to find another man whom they had never met and there inform that house owner they were coming for supper. If you think these directions are strange what’s stranger yet is that Peter and John don’t even question it. They don’t hesitate, they simply go. Now I don’t doubt that they might have chuckled about how this was going to work and how the Master was always doing things that either weren’t expected or seemed really peculiar. But always, always, it was just as He said and always He had perfect purpose in why He said it. That’s how faith works, it goes forward on the command of Christ even when the way seems unexpected. All we may have is the very simple next step, ‘Look for the guy with the water picture.’ Being willing to go, then search, then follow and then speak were the simple steps to answering the question of ‘where’. The omniscience of God gives the directions but the works of faith are what it will take to actually see it happen and until you go, search, follow and ask you can’t do the preparation needed for God’s next step. From Peter and John’s point of view they were doing something simple, from God’s point of view they were key to the establishing of the upper room where the Lord’s supper would take place, an event that would resonate through the church for the rest of its earthly existence. Faith works!

II. Faith Works, But We’re Not Always Sure How.                                                         So Peter and John do as they have been commanded and go to make the necessary preparations for Passover. Just what did that entail? In accordance to the Scripture they needed to make sure there was no leaven in the house, they needed to get the wine and bitter herbs and other foods for the meal itself. But the main thing was that they needed to take the lamb that they had gotten on the 10th of Nisan and take it to the Temple. It was here that the Levitical priests would kill the lamb and take it’s blood and put it upon the burnt altar. This process would have taken most of the day to accomplish as there would have been thousands of people all doing the same and in a rush to have things ready by sundown. Then with the meal prepared, the cushions ready, the water for washing set out, Peter and John needed to get back to Bethany to meet Jesus and the other 10 disciples so as to lead them to the upper room, the location of which only they knew. So don’t forget that it is Peter who is recounting these details to Mark, the writer of this gospel. It’s interesting that Peter doesn’t make any mention of the Passover lamb or of the cleaning the house of yeast or getting the unleavened bread, the very center points of the celebration. He doesn’t make mention of the trip to the Temple nor of the slaughter of the lamb. At the time these details must have seemed very important but after the fact Peter remembers other things. He remembers how 12 disciples came into the room with Jesus but only 11 left with Jesus. Was the secrecy of how to find the upper room a means of preventing Judas from betraying Him before the time of Christ’s choosing? Was the man who they followed with the picture of water a sign of what Jesus intended to do in cleansing them? Perhaps this was the very water that Jesus would use to that night as He cleaned their feet, teaching them how to serve one another. Who would have thought that the bread and the paste of dates and herbs that they had gathered that morning would be used by Jesus to proclaim that one of them was going to betray Him. I think that what particularly struck Peter was the reaction of all the disciples to this announcement of betrayal. Peter remembers that all the disciples began to ask out loud, “Lord, is it I… Is it I ?” It is a question that Jesus leaves unanswered, it promotes a healthy distrust of self, it creates an awareness that sin in all of us is resident, even the sin that betrays another. In faith Peter and John had obeyed Jesus and prepared the Passover and that faith did its work, but not as they had expected. Faith works but the way that it works may not always be what we expect. Even our very lives may not go or even end as we expect, but faith works just the same. Remember Proverbs 3:5,6, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths.”

One last thought about how faith works. Jesus says in verse 21, “The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him…”, referring to all prophetic references made about Him. It refers also to the way that God has not detoured or changed course once in all His intentions for Jesus and the sin of the world that He would take away. Before Israel was a nation, before Egypt was, God had intended a symbol called Passover that would portray the sacrificial work of Jesus as the perfect Lamb of God. His blood would be shed, His body given for the life of others. The sovereign will of the Father set this course and it would not be altered and yet man is accountable to God in the midst of this very sovereignty. The warning to Judas in verse 21 tells him that his plan is known to Jesus. It invites him to respond to the grace of Jesus and to stop and turn from the way he is going. Jesus could have exposed him and the disciples would have killed him on the spot, yet that was not what the grace of God had in mind. If it was we all would be killed on the spot for our sin is just as present and requires the grace of God. It’s the grace of God that not only tells us how the story will end but it invites us to turn from sin and agree with Jesus and seek His forgiveness. That’s how faith works 


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