Introduction: You think you have it bad? Last week I heard a speaker
who was a 14 year-old boy in Rwanda in 1994. His father was from one
rival tribe and his mother from the other. His mother died of cancer
and his father left the country taking him along. When other tribe
refugees noticed that the boy looked like his mother’s tribe, they
told the father they would kill his son. Sent back to Rwanda, the
boy was robbed of all his possessions. His family home taken by
strangers. Did I mention that he thought he would be killed about
six times? He is now 27 and a citizen of France. This boy was the
victim of more crimes than a small town in America would experience
in a year! When I was a kid my most traumatic event was acne. Let’s
jump into our lesson and discover disciples who experienced pressure
- Crushed Hope
- Read Acts 1:1-3. Imagine that you were one of the
disciples who had left your business and followed Jesus
for more than three years. When Jesus is killed, what are
- When Jesus rises from the dead, how have your
- Look carefully at verse 3. What does Jesus have in
mind? (He is making sure the disciples believe that
He has really been resurrected. He is giving them
what should (now) be clear instructions about the
Kingdom of God.)
- Read Acts 1:6. Why would Jesus’ disciples ask Him such a
- How did they miss the point of the 40 days of proof
- How about you? Is it possible that you have plans and
dreams that resist the clearest teachings of the
- Read Acts 1:7-8. Is Jesus answering part of the desire of
their hearts? (The disciples’ desire was for power. Jesus
says that they will receive real power from the Holy
Spirit, not from an earthly kingdom.)
- When you are under pressure, is it because you have
the wrong goals?
- Do you consider the power available to you from the
Holy Spirit? Or, are you mostly depending on your
- This week I received an e-mail from a very highly
educated man who I have represented for decades in a
series of cases. His cases are finally coming to an
end and we were reminiscing about the past. I
attributed my success in litigation to God’s working
in my life. He firmly denied that and said the
credit belonged to me. I thought “How wrong he is.”
God has much work to do on my attitude, but at least
(I hope!) I understand my place.
- Do these verses in Acts teach us we should avoid
trying to obtain political power in a modern
democracy? (Read Psalms 75:6-7 and Romans 13:6. Any
competent Bible student understands the importance of
context. Jesus and His disciples had no ability to
vote. Any earthly power for them would come by force,
by revolution. Jesus’ goal was to change hearts, and
hearts are not changed by governments. Nevertheless,
the Bible teaches that God is interested and involved
in who governs. Voters in a democracy fail to use one
of their available talents, they fail in their
partnership with God, if they do not use their
informed vote to install moral men and women in
- Insulted Love
- Read John 12:1-2. Imagine the feelings of Lazarus and his
sisters, Martha and Mary, towards Jesus. How much do you
think they loved Him?
- What was Martha doing to show that she loved Jesus?
- Read John 12:3-5. How much do you earn in a year? Take
that amount and tell me whether you would spend it on foot
and hair perfume?
- If your answer is “no,” (as it surely is, unless you
have rocks for brains), is Judas right?
- Read John 12:6. Now do you think Judas was wrong? (This
has to do with his corrupt morals. He had the wrong
- Let’s change things a bit. Assume James complained –
James who had no interest in this other than the
poor? Would James be right in complaining?
- You know the “starving orphan” pictures? Imagine that
you could feed 100 starving orphans for a year if you
just donated your annual income to them. So choose,
hair and foot perfume or 100 starving orphans?
- Now imagine you are Mary, who just killed 100
starving orphans for hair and foot perfume. You never
thought about this when you bought the perfume, and
now James/Judas has pointed this out in front of
everyone. How do you feel now?
- Read John 12:7-8. I’m getting to be an old man. I won’t be
around forever. I would love to purchase a Bentley
Continental GT. Am I authorized by Jesus (I assure you I’m
not authorized by my wife) to buy that car? It seems more
practical to me than hair and foot perfume, and should
last longer. What do you say? (What motive would I have to
buy the Bentley? Because I love me (just like Judas).
People would be impressed by my Bentley. They would know I
was “somebody.” Mary loved Jesus. This gift was selfless.
If you are doing something because you love Jesus, even if
it is foolish (and I think this perfume purchase is),
Jesus will intervene on your behalf.)
- What lesson has Mary taught us about friends and
family? (Do good things for them now, while they are
alive to realize it.)
- Insulted Master
- Read Luke 9:51-52. Jesus may not have had a home, but He
had advance men to make the proper overnight arrangements.
Why? (Because this was Samaria. Those people did not
welcome Jews. Probably Jesus would have to pay something
- Read Luke 9:53. Why would the people care about Jesus’
destination? (He was not coming to see them. He was just
passing through. Worse, He was heading towards the Jewish
- Read Luke 9:54. Isn’t this the standard remedy? Reject
Jesus and get destroyed by fire?
- What do you think about this suggestion?
- Read Luke 9:55-56. What did Jesus think of this
- Let’s skip ahead to the next chapter. Read Luke
10:10-12. This is Jesus speaking. Why should He
rebuke James and John for suggesting that fire burn
up a city that rejected Jesus when Jesus says that is
the fate of places that reject the disciples? (Look
again at Luke 9:54. The disciples wanted to know if
they should be the agents of revenge. God will punish
sin with fire. The difference between these two texts
is timing and roles. This is God’s work in God’s
- What lesson do we learn when we are under
pressure in life? When we want to get revenge?
(Leave the punishment to God.)
- Failure Under Pressure
- Probably the most difficult time in Peter’s life
surrounded the arrest and trial of Jesus. Peter had
promised Jesus that he was willing die rather than disown
Jesus ( Mark 14:31), and that he would remain faithful to
Jesus even if all others left ( Matthew 26:33). In that
context, when Peter thought he was in danger of being
arrested, he denied Jesus three times, denying even that
he knew Jesus. ( Matthew 26:69-75). Read John 21:15. What
do you think is important about Jesus’ question? (He does
not show anger towards Peter. But, He does cover the same
ground. Will Peter still contend that He is more faithful
- What kind of answer does Peter give? (He gives the
right answer. No bragging. Just a love response.)
- Peter has miserably failed Jesus. Is he now outside
the ministry? (No. Jesus gives him the commission to
“feed My lambs.”)
- What about you? Have you failed Jesus when pressure
came? Have you denied Him? Jesus forgives and loves
and accepts into His work those who have previously
failed under pressure.
- Would Jesus have told Peter to “feed My lambs”
if Peter had answered “Yes, I love you more than
- Friend, pressure comes from all kinds of sources.
Sometimes it comes because we have the wrong goals,
sometimes it comes from insults, sometimes it comes when
we are doing the right thing and sometimes when we
miserably fail. Jesus is there to carry our burden in
every case. Will you let Him?
- Next week: More Lessons in Discipleship.