Midweek Lenten Service for Wednesday, March 18, 2020: Week 4

The words we have before us this evening from John chapter 18 coincide with the words we considered just last week and how appropriate that is for while Jesus stood trial before the high priests and the Sanhedrin Peter also stood trial in the high priests courtyard his trial was not before high-ranking officials but it was a trial nevertheless and it was a trial the likes of which Jesus’ disciples still faced to this very day which makes it incredibly practical for us to consider. After all Jesus disciples had fled into the darkness in the Garden of Gethsemane Peter and another one of the disciples, probably John, followed the band that had arrested Jesus to the high priests’ residence and maybe they were demonstrating some great amount of confidence and boldness and coming so near to Jesus enemies whatever boldness and faith that they had they would soon disappear into the cold, Judean night. The other disciple was familiar with the high priest and was allowed to go in ahead of Peter and Peter had to wait to be let in but once he was let in Peter’s trial began. “You are not one of his disciples are you?” The question that the girl asked the door seemed like a simple and an innocent enough question maybe even an obvious question considering the time of night and the goings-on within the chambers of the high priest. Brave Peter who had boldly confessed Jesus throughout his ministry now had the opportunity to make another bold confession of faith. Just think about that. When Jesus had asked his disciples who do the people say I am his disciples had answered, “Some say John the Baptist others say Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” But it was Peter who said you are the Christ the Son of the Living God. When many disciples were were turning their backs on Jesus because of because of his hard teaching and Jesus asked the twelve, “You do not want to leave me to, do you?” It was Peter who said, “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of everlasting life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” When Jesus warned his disciples that very night, that they would fall away on account of him, it was Peter who said, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” And to that Peter added, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” It was Peter who that same night in the garden had had boldly drawn his sword and in misguided allegiance to defend Jesus against the mob who came to arrest him had struck and cut off servant to the high priests ear. That was Peter, but now Peter was alone. And the question of a simple servant girl rendered Peter powerless. “You’re not one of his disciples are you?” “I am NOT I am not, I am not.” And as the night continued so did Peter’s trial, as he warmed himself by the by the fire more servants asked him the same question, “You are not one of his disciples are you?” Peter denied it again. “I am not.” Finally a relative of Malcus, whose ear Peter cut off in the garden accused him. “Didn’t I see you with him in the garden?” and again Peter denied it. In fact the other Gospels they give us even more information concerning these subsequent denials. Luke tells us that Peter not only denied that he was one of the disciples, but he also added, “I don’t know the man. Jesus—Jesus who?” And in Mark He tells us that at his third denial Peter even called down curses on himself, “I swear to God I don’t know Jesus. If I know Jesus then let me be damned.” This was an absolute denial of his Savior. This was a comprehensive disownment. And here’s the thing, my friend, Jesus knew. As Jesus stood trial before the high priest, he knew that not only had one of his inner circle betrayed him, but now one of the only friends he had left had disowned him. One of the ones closest to him had disavowed him. One that he could have counted as a brother, had renounced the fact that he ever even knew him. On top of what he was already suffering, our Lord Jesus had to endure that. The unqualified denial of a friend. Peter disowned Jesus to save his own hide. He rejected his Lord and Savior the one who had the words of eternal life, he said, to protect his own life here on earth. And what a sad chapter of our Lord’s passion history this is. A chapter that demonstrates how truly alone Jesus was as he suffered. But— but before we turn Peter into our personal punching bag. Before we we waive that accusing finger at him and say “Shame on you Peter. Shame, shame shame.” Let’s all take the time to look at ourselves. Now I have heard each of you, as surely as I have heard myself confess Jesus Christ as Lord—actually I hear it every week. We stand together and say “I believe in Jesus Christ His only Son our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified died and was buried, he descended into hell, the third day he rose again from the dead, he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, from there he will come to judge the living and the dead. I’ve heard you say the Apostles Creed right? I’ve witnessed the confessions that we we say together when we come to the Lord’s table to receive together with Jesus through body and blood forgiveness and life and salvation. The Lord’s Supper is a holy meal which the Apostle Paul says, “by which we proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” We make a confession of faith. I’ve seen you make and I have made I have been both confessions concerning Jesus Christ about who he is and what that means just like Peter did. In Jesus’ presence. And so the question to ask ourselves is this does that confession reflect the life you live and the things you say outside of these walls? Do we confess Jesus in the world? Or do we put ourselves in situations where it becomes very easy to deny Jesus. When everyone else’s is drinking to excess do you join in because, “Come on..a Christian can have a good time too.” When no one else around you is around, do you let your eyes, or even just your your mind’s eyes, view things that you would never look at if Jesus was right there with you. When you go through a difficult time in your family, does does anger ever erupt in your words and actions? When the truth is attacked, you defend it or do you do you sit there and remain silent as someone’s reputation is ruined? Or maybe, even the only true faith that which rests on Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord is disparaged left and right by people of this world. Friends, any and all of these things are nothing more and nothing less, than a denial of Jesu. We confess him here before his face as our Savior and friends say, “I will not forsake you” but many of us have even stood in front of a church as we were confirmed and promised to remain faithful to Jesus Christ even until death. And yet as we leave this place, and we go out into the world where it’s where it’s not so safe we deny in by our words. We disown him with our actions, and we renounce him with our sinful thoughts. The truth is, we’re just as guilty as Peter. The truth is is that while it only took a little servant girls question to get Peter to fall, sometimes it takes even less to get to get you and me to fall. Sometimes we deny Jesus not in a perceived matter of life or death, but but because we’re afraid of what somebody’s going to think of us when challenged. We come up with all sorts of of “good reasons” to compromise our faith and deny our Lord, but none of them are really good and all of them are really damnable. Every single day as we live our lives, we often say just like Peter, “I don’t know the man. I don’t know Jesus.” It’s us. It’s our sins that have denied Jesus. “At that moment a rooster began to crow.” And as that rooster crowed Peter was reminded, he was reminded of Jesus. See earlier that same night, Jesus had told his disciples this. He said, “Where I am going you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” Peter asked, “Lord why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” And then Jesus answered, “will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” That rooster’s cry brought Peter back. It brought to mind the word of Christ. It brought to light Peter’s sin, and the only place he could flee for salvation. “Where I am going you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” Lord, forgive me. God grant that in our moments of denial that the rooster crows for us too. When we have carelessly denied Jesus in our lives, God grant that we too call to mind the word of God. When we sorrow over our many sins, may we always remember the precious and peaceful words of Christ that he also spoke that same night, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God. Trust also in me. In my father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me, that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I’m going. I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” Jesus Christ was denied for us and for our salvation. That was the way in which he won for us the forgiveness of sins. That was the way that he got us to the Father, that he gets us to heaven. He suffered great physical pain. He suffered the denial and abandonment of of his closest friends. He was even disowned by his Heavenly Father on the cross prompting him to cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He did that all for you, because your sins separated you from an eternity of joy and gladness in God’s heaven. Jesus removed your sins. He took them all away by his bitter and suffering and death on the cross because you needed nothing but pure righteousness to live eternally in paradise with your God. Jesus gave you the pure righteousness he had earned in a perfect life. He met every one of God’s demands. He kept God’s will perfectly in your place, because he wants you to be with him because he wants you to have eternal rest and peace because he loves you that much. He wrote your name in his book of life and he confessed that name before his father in heaven. You want proof? Look at the cross. He was mocked for you, he was denied for you, he suffered for you, he died for you. You want proof look at the empty tomb. He rose to everlasting life for you, he ascended into heaven for you so that he could say to all of you, “You are mine, you belong to me and I will confess that truth before my father forever.” He inspired his apostle to assure us with these words. If we are faithless he will prove faithful. For he cannot disown himself. My friends, Jesus Christ is faithful so be faithful to him. Confess him not just here, but out there in the world. Not just in times of peace, but in in times of trial because you know the one in whom you have placed your hope. The sinless son of God, the Christ, your savior, confess him as you look forward to the eternal home he has prepared for you in heaven. Confess your faith in the one who was denied for you. God grant it.

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