GOING THE WRONG WAY ON A ONE-WAY STREET
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
June 2, 2019
45 And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, 46 and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”
47 While he was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss him, 48 but Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” 49 And when those who were around him saw what would follow, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” 50 And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. 51 But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. 52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders, who had come out against him, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? 53 When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.”
54 Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest's house, and Peter was following at a distance. 55 And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. 56 Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” 57 But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” 58 And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.” 59 And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” 60 But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” 62 And he went out and wept bitterly.
63 Now the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking him as they beat him. 64 They also blindfolded him and kept asking him, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?” 65 And they said many other things against him, blaspheming him.
66 When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people gathered together, both chief priests and scribes. And they led him away to their council, and they said, 67 “If you are the Christ, tell us.” But he said to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe, 68 and if I ask you, you will not answer. 69 But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” 70 So they all said, “Are you the Son of God, then?” And he said to them, “You say that I am.” 71 Then they said, “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips.”
— Luke 22:45-71, ESV
In a recurring episode that is sometimes comedic and too often tragic, some driver gets caught going the wrong way on a one-way street. Their reasons vary. Some do it in the stupor of sleepiness. Some are betrayed by their sight and misread the signs. Still others deny they were ever going the wrong way until traffic or tragedy proved them wrong. Occasionally one does it with malicious intent to harm others or themselves. And then there is the guy who lawyers up and offers the classic defense, “Well, I was only going one way.”
The eery thing about these excuses is they are achingly similar to reasons people responded the wrong way to Jesus when He took His fateful walk from the Garden of Gethsemane to the Cross of Calvary. Christ was going one way in order to be the one way a person may receive salvation and eternal life (ref. John 14:6). Take look at this collection of travelers along the way, believers and unbelievers, who went the wrong way on a one-way street.
As Jesus began His one-way walk, He was accompanied by His closest friends: Simon Peter and the brothers James and John. Christ depended upon them during this dark hour to go the right way with Him in prayer and fellowship. When Jesus turned to them at this pivotal moment in His life, and theirs, He found them asleep on the job.
Scripture and history are kind to these three. Though Peter hit a pothole and James’ road was all too short, they and John awakened, turned around, and went the right way with Jesus. Sadly, this is not the case for many who slumber down the wrong way on God’s one-way street.
I have witnessed many a professing believer turn the wrong way into immorality and divorce, drug use and prison, or the more subtle but deadly off ramp of apostasy and unbelief. It all started with a little slumber, a little sleep. Instead of reporting for worship, they stayed in bed or pursued more exciting endeavors. They closed their eyes to the word of God and dreamed of the ways of the world instead. They crashed, burned, and took other lives with them. Please, don’t sleep on the Lord.
The next to go up the off ramp was the traitor, Judas Iscariot. His poison had been predicted the night before in the Upper Room. At dawn in the Garden he made his move. All sin and unbelief is hideous in the end, but even more so when hypocrisy and betrayal are disguised with love and a kiss. This was an inside job to push Jesus into traffic and kill Him. It succeeded, too, but at what cost?
Judas caused chaos and fighting to break out in Christ’s little church, with Simon Peter slinging a sword and cutting off Malchus’ ear, which Jesus mercifully healed. Once again, though Peter found himself going the wrong way, and will again, he eventually would be found on the road to redemption, bringing many others along for the ride. But what about Judas, or any other insider who betrays Christ and Christianity by going the wrong way against the one-way gospel?
Luke’s Gospel never mentions Judas again. But he does write about him in the first chapter of the book of Acts. In graphic and grotesque language, Luke describes the tragic end of the traitor who feigned belief in the one way to Heaven then plunged down the wrong way to Hell (ref. Acts 1:16-20). This is one wrong way you do not want to go.
Judas said he did when he didn’t, but Simon Peter said he didn’t when he did, believe in Jesus, that is. I suppose I’d rather be the latter than the former. But I’d really rather be neither, for both went the wrong way.
Why would someone like Peter, a leader among the followers of Christ, who moments earlier would have cut someone’s head off for Jesus (of course he missed, however, and only got an ear), turn the other way on the Lord and deny three times that he even knew the Messiah? I suppose it is for the same reasons other professing Christians play the coward against Christ.
Peter wanted the comfort of the fire. Peter wanted to get in on the excitement. Peter wanted to escape persecution. Professing Christians still go this wrong way today. They forsake spiritual disciplines for worldly lusts. They attend heretical churches if the music has the right beat. They cow down when there is a cost to be paid for confessing the faith.
Jesus knew. At the same time He predicted Judas’ betrayal, the Lord had predicted Peter’s denial, punctuated with the rooster’s crow (in Jerusalem, a church is built on the very spot with a golden rooster on the spire). Jesus forgave, too, because in spite of his temporary madness, Simon Peter was a true believer.
Isn’t it great to know that, as a true believer, God forgives you when you sin. Wouldn’t it be better, however, for us and our fellow travelers along God’s highway, to just go the right way with God in the first place?
The men who arrested Jesus in the garden were not hardened Roman soldiers, but pharisaically religious Jews, part of the militia who served the High Priest. They had a map, the Old Testament, that could point out the prophecies which prove Jesus is the Messiah. But instead of following that map and going the right way, they chose the wrong way of bullying and blaspheming the Lord.
We have bullies today who fight against Christ, Christians, and the Christian Scriptures. They are people who should know better, key people in politics, media, the entertainment industry, and yea verily, religion. We have very few atheists or adherents of other religions in the high halls of American politics today, quite a few in the media and entertainment, and I suspect some in the liberal mainline churches. How many of them would publicly affirm that Christ is the only way of salvation, that Christians have the same rights as other groups to attach their faith to public policy, or that the Bible’s teachings on marriage and morality should be respected and obeyed? And they try to bully those of us who do.
The great irony is they all think they are going the right way, driving progress for the people, entering new lanes of enlightenment. In reality they are drunkenly driving the wrong way on a one-way street, and the accident that takes them in the end will be apocalyptic.
I know a lawyer is just doing her job when she gets the guilty exonerated on some technicality or motion to suppress the convicting evidence. I know a lawyer is just doing his job when he badgers the defendant in a deposition only to trick him into saying something he can contradict later in court. But I tell you it is a dirty job.
Enter the Sanhedrin, seventy-one men, the High Priest, chief priests, scribes, and elders of Israel, Sadducees, Pharisees, Herodians, the people of power, albeit limited. They have the authority over all things Jewish in Palestine, save death and taxes. Those rights belong to almighty Rome.
A confession to be the Son of God is to take the mantle of Messiah, son of David and Son of God. To take the mantle of Messiah is to take the throne of a King, over Israel and over all the world. To take the title of King would be a capital offense against Rome and Caesar.
This the lawyers knew and this is where they walked with Jesus. Only while Jesus was going the right way, the way of righteousness, they were going the wrong way. Jesus’ condemnation would result in their own. But they drove their anyway, glibly going the wrong way down a one-way street.
The wrong ways to respond to Christ and Christianity are myriad. Five basic ones are found aptly illustrated by this parade of characters on Jesus’ walk to the cross. Jesus was going one way. They all went the wrong way. Don’t you want to go the right way with the Lord?
Try these five steps instead: repent, believe, obey, worship, love. The road will not be an easy one. But, the destination will be heavenly.
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Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org