In the name oIn the name of the Father and of the † Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Die With Him
On the past few Wednesday evenings, we have been reading about the last hours that Jesus and his disciples spent together before his arrest. Last week we remembered the betrayal of Jesus by Judas. The temple guards arrest Jesus and took him to be tried before the high priest and elders.
Before we consider what happened next, I would like us to remember what happened shortly before Jesus and his disciples came to Jerusalem. Lazarus had died and Jesus said to his disciples, “I go to awaken him.” Jesus was talking about bringing Lazarus back from death to life.
The disciples were afraid because Lazarus and his sisters live in the village of Bethany which was a suburb of Jerusalem. With all that Jesus had been saying about going to Jerusalem, being arrested, and being put to death, the disciples thought it best to stay away from Jerusalem.
Jesus, however, was insistent. “So Thomas said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”” As Jesus was arrested, we don’t see any of his disciples stepping forward and insisting that they too go before the high priest.
Tonight, however, we do see one of the disciples, Peter, following after Jesus and the guards but at a safe distance. Peter was the disciple who with his lips confessed that Jesus was “The Christ, the Son of the living God.” With his lips he also confessed “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.”
Peter wanted to be close to Jesus. He wanted to see what was going to happen. But Peter felt alone. None of the other disciples were there with him. He was among strangers. He was in enemy territory. Peter was afraid of what might happen to him.
Peter was confronted as being one the followers of the man who had just been arrested. Three times Peter was confronted and three times Peter lied about his association with Jesus of Nazareth.
At that moment a rooster crowed, just as Jesus had said it would. Also Peter sees Jesus looking at him. Peter left the courtyard and “wept bitterly.” In those words, “bitterly wept,” I see a man whose whole being was tortured by what he had done. I hear the sobbing, I see his chest heaving as he tries to catch his breath between a flood of tears
With his lies Peter had betrayed and denied the one he professed to love more than his own life. The guilt and shame that he felt must have been enormous. There was nothing Peter could do to take back his lies. The words and look of Jesus took him to the very depths of sorrow.
It is this kind of grief that the Law of God intends for all of us. This may sound like a very radical statement. What happened to all the preaching I’ve done about a gracious and merciful God? “What happened” you ask to the verse from God’s Word that says, “God is love.”
This God exists and he is there for you, but he is only there for those who are crushed by the weight of their sins. Jesus is only there for sinners who know that they are helpless. He is there for those who weep bitterly because we have failed Jesus, lied about knowing him through our words and deeds.
The Ten Commandments, the failures of all the Old Testament people, the parables of Jesus about the unforgiving and the self-righteous are all God’s Word bringing us to our knees in repentance. They are the mirror in which we see ourselves as sinners.
They are the evidence that all we like sheep go astray and cannot find our way home. Luke through the Holy Spirit tells us about Peter not so that we can feel superior to Peter or simply feel sorry for Peter. We are shown Peter so that we can see ourselves in Peter’s denial.
Jesus Goes Forward
As Peter left the courtyard in sorrow, we also see Jesus continuing to be led away to stand before the high priest and elders. Earlier in Luke’s gospel he wrote about Jesus coming to this moment and the events that were soon to occur. Luke chapter nine verse fifty-one reads, “When the days drew near for [Jesus] to be taken up, [Jesus] set his face to go to Jerusalem.”
These are rather haunting words as we hear that Jesus, knowing the suffering and death that he would endure in Jerusalem, went forward. Jesus knew that he would be placed on trial, that he would be wounded for our transgressions, nailed to a cross, and that that cross would be lifted up so that he would hang for hours in pain.
The Word of God tells us not just about our sins as we go the way of Peter, but it tells us the direction that Jesus went. Jesus did not waiver, he did not turn back. Jesus went forward because Peter needed forgiveness. Peter needed each and every one of his sins taken away.
And so Jesus stood before the high priests, before Herod, and before Pilate. Jesus hung on a cross between two thieves. He was forsaken by the heavenly Father. He did all this for Peter and he did all this for you.
Yes the Good News in God’s Word is that Jesus Christ went all the way to the tomb so that your sins are forgiven. He took your sins to the cross. They were laid on him, each and every one of your sins went with Jesus to the place of execution outside of Jerusalem.
New Words To Speak
Jesus has given you new words to speak. After you have confessed your sins, after you have hit bottom, you have the words of eternal life. You can now say with the assurance of the cross that God is your salvation. For the sake of Jesus Christ your sins are forgiven. You can confess your faith in Jesus who is your redeemer.
Salvation, forgiveness, and redemption are words that you can speak whenever the name of Jesus Christ is on your lips. Repent and believe.
In the name of Jesus, Amen.
Soli Deo Gloria