Lent MW 0319- “Peter the Apostle!” Luke 22:52,54-62

Lent MW 0319- “Peter the Apostle!” Luke 22:52,54-62
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen
The text for our sermon meditation is the Gospel account of St Luke the 22nd Chapter.
“…the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders, who had come out against him,… seized [Jesus] and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house, and Peter was following at a distance. 55And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. 56Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” 57But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” 58And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.” 59And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” 60But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. 61And 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.” 62And he went out and wept bitterly.”

So far the reading.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Dare we point an accusing finger at Peter? Certainly there are others who are pointing an accusing finger at Peter, so to speak. But why this accusing finger?

Peter is in the place of temptation. At a distance, Peter followed his Lord and Teacher from Gethsemane to the house of the high priest. He accompanied John who was known to them and spoke for Peter that he would be admitted into the courtyard of the high priest’s house. There Peter sat with those who would witness the condemnation of Jesus.

Truly, Peter walked into the place of temptation. Many of those people among whom he sits were in the Garden of Gethsemane. Some even witnessed Simon severing the ear of Malchus, the servant of the high priest. Now, all eyes are upon Peter. There is something familiar to them about Peter. Within an interval of less than two hours Peter is recognized as being a disciple of Jesus. “This man was with him.” “You also are one of them.” “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.”

Do you hear the crescendo of accusation ringing in Peter’s ears? These are not questions seeking a confession of truth. These are statements of accusation regarding the truth. Everyone around the fire knows who Peter is. Each statement is tightening the screw that is crushing Peter’s conscience and putting his faith to the test.

“Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” There is a reason Jesus gave those words to His disciples. Jesus repeated these words as he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. Knowing what was about to take place, Jesus instructed His disciples to rise from sleep and pray.

““And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” … And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, 46and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”” Luke 22:39,40,45,46

What was Peter’s temptation? It was not necessarily this moment when he is confronted by his accusers. It was certainly when Jesus warned him against these events. Earlier Jesus spoke of this moment to Peter and the disciples. He warned them they would all fall away on account of His being arrested and condemned to death. The temptation of Peter began with is response to Jesus’ warning. What did Peter say? Lord even if all others fall away, I will go to jail and even suffer death with you. Peter gave in to sinful human pride. He thought more highly of himself than he ought. In denial of Jesus omniscience, Peter proclaimed his own infallibility. “I’ve got this Jesus. I’ll be with you no matter what. No one will knock me down. Bring it on.”

How often we too fail to acknowledge the word and wisdom of God. We put off what is necessary, to do what is expedient. We do not take the time to prepare because, like Peter, “We got this!” But what happens when we are called upon to make a faithful witness to our Lord Jesus Christ? There are many voices today clamoring against the Word and righteous will of God. When the eyes of those who speak against the Word and will of God are turned toward you, how will you respond? Perhaps it has already happened to you and failed to give a faithful witness to your faith in Jesus Christ.

What failure will you or do you have to confess? What sinful pride holds you in its deadly grasp? What temptation causes you to make a response of self-preservation rather than self-sacrifice? What sinful denial weighs heavy upon your soul?

Consider Peter who realizes the depth of his sinfulness. The words of Jesus immediately are brought to the forefront of his mind. Jesus told Peter while eating the Passover,

“31“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” 33Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” 34Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”” Luke 22
Immediately following Peter’s third denial, the condemnation foretold by Jesus was heard by Peter. As recorded by St Luke, in increasing strength of fear, Peter speaks his three denials. “Woman I do not know him.” “Man, I am not!” “Man, I do not know what you are talking about!” Matthew records that Peter also invoked curses upon himself to emphasize his denial. The rooster crows. Peter is looking to Jesus and Jesus turns to look at Peter.

What passed between them in that look? We wrongly will think of Jesus signaling to Peter, “I told you so.” That would certainly be our response. How many times have you thought or said such a thing? Our Lord does not think as we think. As Isaiah 55 says of God’s thoughts and ways:

“8For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. 9For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Jesus looks upon Peter as He looked upon those who crucified Him and as He looked upon John and His mother standing at the foot of His cross. There is no condemnation. Rather there is mercy in Jesus’ look. There is invitation in Jesus’ look. There is hope in Jesus’ look. Jesus knows that even this denial of Peter will be covered in the blood He would soon shed. The encouragement to Peter is to repent and seek the mercy of your Savior. Pride comes before the fall, but grace and mercy will lift you up.

Peter weeps bitter tears, but he does not finally fall away. The prayer of Jesus was answered three days hence. Peter will enter the empty tomb of Jesus and his faith and confidence restored. It will no longer be based of personal pride. Rather it will be built upon the Rock of Life, Jesus Christ. As it was for Peter, so also it is for us. Satan may sift us, but Jesus sustains and defends us in temptation. Amen