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Jesus Unfiltered - Testify
Testify is the 4th and final volume of Chip Ingram’s series, Jesus Unfiltered, an exposition of the entire Gospel of John. Testify reveals Jesus’ last days on earth and His final words to His followers, from then to today. It’s a bold, gritty assignment – far from the ease and prosperity of content religion. Jesus tasked His followers with a mission to testify; He promised a future of tribulation; He provided the limitless power of the Holy Spirit; and He guaranteed the hope of victory. Testify will encourage and challenge you to take your faith to the next level – to be strong and courageous – for the sake of His Kingdom to come.More from this series
We pick up the story. It continues. The high priest begins to question Jesus, verse 19. “Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about His disciples and about His teaching.” Now, notice Jesus’ focus and His response is going to go back to how openly He testified, how openly He shared and taught and what He is going to call on them to do is do what? Bring witnesses in who heard My teaching, let them testify about what is true and what I spoke.
“When Jesus said this, He said, ‘I have always taught in the synagogue and in the temple, where all the Jews came together. I said nothing in secret. Why question Me? Ask those who heard Me. Surely they knew what I said.’ When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby struck Him in the face. ‘Is that the way they answer the high priest?’ he demanded.”
Now, notice the theme the author keeps bringing up. “‘If I said something wrong,’ Jesus replied, ‘testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?’ Then Annas sent Him still to be bound to Caiaphas the high priest.” Are you catching the drift? Are you catching and realizing there is a series of people and the issue is: how do they testify to the truth? Are they courageous or are they cowardly?
Verse 25, “As Simon Peter stood warming himself, he was asked, ‘Surely you’re not another of His disciples?’ And he denied it, saying, ‘I am not.’ One of the high priest’s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, ‘Well, didn’t I see you with Him in the olive garden?’ Again, Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster crowed,” as prophesied, three times.
And, by the way, the other gospel writers, a little bit more graphic. Peter doesn’t just say, “No, it wasn’t me.” He says, “Blankety, blank, blank! I don’t know the guy!” He actually curses and completely disowns any relationship with Jesus. And this is the same guy who was willing to die an hour or two or three before.
“Then the Jews led Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid the ceremonial uncleanness the Jews did not enter the palace, they wanted to be able to take the Passover.”
So it’s okay to have three illegal trials. This is the irony of religion and we have to all look in the mirror. The irony is that they want to make sure they are ceremonially clean to take the Passover, but they do three illegal trials and are going to kill an innocent man because He claimed to be God and loved people, raised people from the dead.
“‘What are the charges you bring against this man?’ Pilate says. ‘Well, if He were not a criminal,’ they replied, ‘we wouldn’t have handed Him over to you.’ Pilate said, ‘Take Him yourself and judge Him by your own laws.’ ‘Well, we have no right to execute anyone,’ the Jews objected. This happened so that the words of Jesus that had been spoken indicating the kind of death He was going to die would be fulfilled. Pilate went back inside and summoned Jesus and asked Him, ‘Are You the King of the Jews?’ ‘Is that your own idea,’ Jesus asked, ‘or did you talk to others about Me?’ ‘Do you think I’m a Jew?’ Pilate replied. ‘It was Your people and Your chief priests who handed You over to me. What is it that You have done?’”
Testimony. “Jesus said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent My arrest by the Jews. But now My kingdom is from another place.’ ‘You are a king, then!’ said Pilate. Jesus answered, testifying again, ‘You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to Me.’ ‘What is truth?’ Pilate asked.
And with this he went out again to the Jews and said,” notice it’s an examination by a government official. Here’s his testimony, “‘I find no basis for a charge against Him. But it’s your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at this time of year at the Passover. Do you want me to release for you “the king of the Jews”?’ They shouted back, ‘No, not Him! Give us Barabbas!’ Now Barabbas had taken part in a rebellion,” and actually had committed murder.
So these guys that don’t want to be ceremonially unclean so they can take the Passover want a murderer to get off and an innocent man to die. Do you see?
Cowards/courageous. And Jesus, testifying to the truth and making this climactic statement about His entire life purpose.
And, by the way, that is our call: to testify to the truth. What is true about God, what is true about us, what is true about the world, what is true about the future. What a statement. “Everyone on the side of the truth listens to Me.” I guess despite how grey the world has become, at least according to Jesus, who died and rose from the dead, you’re either on the side of truth or you’re not.
Now, what I want to do, because I think the fact is is that all of us are courageous, at times, and all of us are cowardice at times. And I’d like to dig a little bit to find out why. What made these people do what they did? Because I want to know why I do what I do. I sort of want to know. Part of me doesn’t want to know. But I’ll never be courageous if I don’t realize there are certain things that are predictors of making you and me cowards in our lives.
Now, you’re going to have to get your fingers ready and I am going to ask you to look up a couple passages, because I don’t want you to hear me say something, I want you to open and look and read and go, Oh!
Lessons from John 18. Lesson number one is a question. What kept Judas and Annas from listening to the truth in Jesus? And the answer is: greed. Annas was making a fortune; Judas probably had a lot of mixed motives but it was for thirty pieces of silver. It’s what you could buy a slave for.
I’m going to ask you to open your Bibles to Luke chapter 16, because I want you to hear Jesus’ actual commentary. Greed is a powerful thing. It’s something we all wrestle and struggle with. But Annas and Judas did not listen to the truth because of greed. Have you found it? Luke chapter 16. I’m going to begin at verse 14. “The Pharisees,” the religious leaders, “who were lovers of money, heard all these things that Jesus was teaching and they ridiculed Him.” Here is Jesus’ response, “And He said to them, ‘You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your heart. For that which is highly esteemed among men,’” money, power, position, and stuff that comes with it, “that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.”
Question that I ask myself and I ask you: is your testimony hindered because it could have implications for your career? Are you less than bold at work? Are you less than upfront? Are you less than verbal? Are you unwilling to be unashamed to be a follower of Christ because if you are, that might really hurt your chances for a promotion? Or you might be viewed differently at work? Or the fact of the matter is: is your life so busy working that, really, you don’t have much of a testimony? Your life really isn’t very different. The fact is, you have a lot of debt, you have an untamed schedule, your life is dictated by demands, and you would never call yourself greedy, but the unconscious pursuit of what you think is required has by that pattern dismissed you as being a person who is identified loving, holy, caring, different in the best sense of the word, follower of Jesus. It was true of them and it can be true of us.
All I want to say is: greed will make you and me a coward. We will run from the opportunity. We will be afraid of what people think. Courage is stepping out and being bold, even when it feels dangerous or you’ll receive criticism or be viewed as anti-intellectual or a Bible-thumper or one of those even prejudiced people.
The second reason or lesson from John 18 is: what kept the religious leaders from listening to the truth in Jesus? And the answer is: pride, power, and position. Pride, power, and position.
I’d like you, if you will, to open to John chapter 12. Just move back from John 18; John chapter 12. Again, I want you to hear the actual gospel writers. I want you to look at it for yourself.
Because in my heart, I don’t want to believe that pride or position or that that would make me a coward. But according to Scripture, it does.
Verse 42, it says, “Nevertheless, many of the authorities,” these are Jewish leaders, Jewish religious leaders, “believed in Him. But for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it so that they would not be put out of the synagogue, for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.”
Anybody concerned about your social standing? Anybody concerned about how you are viewed? Are you sophisticated? Are you intellectual? Anyone really not want to come under some sort of label that you’re a Bible-believing, unashamed, follower of Jesus?
I have met people in the business world where some of the, what I know, people who really, really walk with God. And I have had people say, “I had no idea he was a Christian. I had no idea she was a Christian. Well, I knew that they were a high integrity person and I knew they worked hard.” There’s a lot of people who have high integrity and work hard. But they mortgaged their testimony. There was no testimony! There’s no testimony!
The only way they are going to hear is you and me. And the pride of what people think or the sense of loss of power or position. My question for you and me: is your testimony hindered because of social pressure and how you’re afraid people will look at you? It’s one of those take-it-to-God, honest questions.
The third lesson is: what kept Peter and Pilate from listening to the truth in Jesus? Well, it takes a little historical research with Pilate. And all I will tell you is that he made a handful of bad decisions and the emperor, at the time, was dealing with some other things and he went on a long vacation and he put one of his commanders in charge of Rome.
And this commander, after a season, decided that he was going to try and marry into the royal family. And that made the emperor think, I think he’s after my job. So he came back, had him executed. And then anybody that he appointed as an official, he started going through and had them executed. Well, Pilate was one of the guys that was appointed by this guy.
And so when the Jews say, “Hey! Anybody who has this king of the Jews is no friend of Caesar’s!” Pilate is going, You know what? This is easy. I can’t handle one bad PR here because all they have to say is…
It was fear! Peter was afraid. Weird, isn’t it? He wasn’t afraid when there was two hundred soldiers and he is standing next to Jesus, but a servant girl and he sitting next to her, he’s afraid!
Moment of truth: “Are you one of His followers? Do you follow Him?” Yes? Your head comes off. No, you can go.” It has happened, historically. This isn’t hypothetical stuff. Peter goes, “No.” He ran. He was a coward.
You know the root word, you know where we get our word coward? From the Latin word for tail. It’s a picture of when an animal puts its tail between its legs and runs away from a predator of more power. And he was overwhelmed with grief.
The final lesson is: what empowered Peter to listen to the truth in Jesus, initially? You know what? I don’t know about you, but those – greed, power, position, fear – I get all those. “The fear of man is a snare,” Proverbs 29:25 says. “But blessed is he who trusts in the Lord.” At the end of the day, isn’t it faith? Do I trust God for my position? Do I trust God with my money? Do I trust God with what people think of me?
See, we won’t testify unless we are people of faith. And I’m not saying it’s easy, but courage is choosing to do or say what we know is right when we are frightened and concerned about what could happen.
But this is a positive lesson. What empowered Peter to listen to the truth, initially? The answer is: Jesus’ presence and power. Right? There are two hundred soldiers, but there’s Jesus! There are two hundred soldiers, but He speaks; they all fall down! There are two hundred soldiers, but my bros are here! We are in this together. There are ten of us here. Not that the ten are going to win, but isn’t it amazing that just with a few people around you, that our faith rubs up against one another, and just doing life in community in a way, we take steps together. And as I hear about what you do and what she does that it empowers me to step out.
And I’m sure you guys think, Oh, yeah, Chip. Do you know that you never have any problems with this? You’re a pastor.And you’re so passionate up here. And blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I was doing the funeral for Theresa’s dad and, and there’s this little funeral home and there’s this big, open area and a little alcove and there’s a coffin and the lid is up and there’s Red. Not much of him. He got really, lost all this weight, but just…So for four hours, different people are coming in and there’s a dead body there. And I don’t, I haven’t seen, I don’t know Theresa’s family. And we’re going to go to the gravesite and her two sisters and their family and then some other relatives and other people. And so for four hours I’m building relationship and realizing, I mean, I felt like a missionary trying to figure out, Oh my gosh. I don’t know how life works here.
And little, by little, by little I felt like God was giving me favor and I was kind of connecting and then it’s time to go to the gravesite and Theresa and her sister said, “Please, make sure. In our whole family situation, there’s a lot of people who don’t know the Lord. There are a lot of people who are not on their way to heaven. We need you to, really winsomely, really share the gospel.”
And I remember I went out to the car and we are getting ready because they are putting the body in the thing and we are going to go to the gravesite. And I remember just sitting in the car and thinking, I’ve met these people; this is so awkward. And I just had this overwhelming sense of fear. And it was like, I mean, it’s illogical. Like, what are they going to think of me? And it’s really small. Actually, the larger the group, the easier it is to be bold. Give me thousands of people! Give me fifteen or seventeen and it’s like, yeee. You know?
And I would have been a coward. And I sat I the car alone just reviewing my little message, just saying, God, it will not matter what any of these people think of me. This may be the only time, ever, they hear the gospel clearly. And so I need to share it, and then I need to let them know exactly how to trust Christ. And then I need to give them the opportunity; this is what you need to do today if you never have.
I don’t think courage is being an amazing person. I think courage is stepping out, regardless of your fear.
And here’s what I would remind you: the power of your testimony. Revelation chapter 12:11 and it’s talking about overcoming Satan and spiritual strongholds. And it says, “And they overcame him,” and in the context it’s Satan – how? What does it say? “They overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony and they did not love their life, even when faced with death.”
I want you to know you telling your story, you openly - God is working all over. And He’s going to use regular people like us to testify, courageously and not be cowards. And it is powerful.