Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Lent Midweek 3

Lent Midweek 3[1]

March 18, 2009

Text: Matt. 26:69-75 (ESV): 69 Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came up to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” 70 But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you mean.” 71 And when he went out to the entrance, another servant girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” 72 And again he denied it with an oath: “I do not know the man.” 73 After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.” 74 Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately the rooster crowed. 75 And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.

Peter is in a tight spot. Jesus has just been arrested by an angry mob and brought to mock trial before the chief priest in the dead of night. All of the disciples, save Peter and John up to this point, have fled for fear that they, too, would be arrested, and perhaps even executed. While John goes in for a closer look, Peter warms himself by the fire in the courtyard. That’s when it happens. A servant girl recognizes him. “You also were with Jesus the Galilean” (Matt. 26:69). Peter denies it. You have to understand that for Peter to admit he was with Jesus the Galilean might mean that he would have to die with Jesus. And despite Peter’s boasts earlier in the evening in that upper room on the night Jesus was betrayed, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away… Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” (vv. 33, 35), despite all of these claims, Peter is consumed with fear for his own safety. His concern is no longer for his Lord, his Savior, his friend, but for himself. He denies knowing Jesus, not only once, but the second time with an oath, “I do not know the man” (v. 72), and the third time calling down curses upon himself, “I do not know the man”! (v. 74; emphasis added).

And then a rooster crows. Luke tells us that the Lord turns at that moment and looka at Peter (Luke 22:61). How agonizing that look must be for Peter. Jesus knows exactly what Peter has said. Jesus had predicted, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times” (Matt. 26:34). Peter remembers all of this. The sound of the rooster and the piercing gaze of His dear Savior cut Peter to the heart. He goes out of the courtyard and weeps bitterly.

So it is that our Lord bears the wound of denial. He bears it for us and for our salvation. For beloved, you and I are no better than Peter. How many opportunities to confess Christ and speak of His love have you let slip through your fingers? Why are we so afraid to speak the Word of Christ to our family members, friends, neighbors, and those whom God places into our lives? It is because, like Peter and the other disciples, we are more concerned with our own safety and welfare than we are for our Lord and for those who need so desperately to hear about Jesus and His Gospel. We are afraid we will be rejected, as Jesus is rejected. We are afraid our confession of Christ may end friendships and cause tension among family members. We are afraid we might lose respect in the community. Others may think badly of us. We are even afraid to speak the Gospel to total strangers because they might tell us they are not interested, and that would bruise our ego. We want to be liked above all else. Our culture is no fan of Jesus Christ, and neither is it a fan of those who confess His Name. It’s easier to be silent, even like Peter, by our words and actions to deny that we know Jesus.

Beloved, repent. Repent as Peter does in our text. Peter’s bitter tears are tears of repentance. Unlike Judas, Peter does not despair of his life, but turns to the Lord for forgiveness and salvation. Peter would come to place all his trust in Christ and His innocent suffering and death for forgiveness. He would go on to write, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit” (1 Peter 3:18). Peter knew that Jesus’ blood covered even his sin of denial. And so also, dear brothers and sisters, the blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, covers all of your sins, including your sins of denial, your fear of persecution, your inability to confess Jesus Christ and His Gospel before men. By His death and resurrection, Jesus has brought you to God, having suffered for your sins and given you His righteousness. It is appropriate that, especially during Lent, but even all throughout this short life, we cry our bitter tears of repentance. But we do not do so without hope. We know that Jesus died for us, and that He is risen, and that all who believe in Him have forgiveness, eternal life, and salvation.

This helps us also in our weakness in the face of persecution. It strengthens us to confess Christ no matter what the consequences. Unlike Peter and the other disciples, and many throughout the history of the Church, thus far you have not been called upon to shed your blood for Jesus Christ. The persecution you face is much more subtle than that. But no matter how bad the persecution gets, whether you lose friends or are estranged from family members, or even if it comes to the point where you may face imprisonment and even death on account of Jesus and His Gospel, remember our Lord’s promises: “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt. 5:11-12). And remember that Christ is risen. He has conquered sin and death. So whatever the persecutors do to you, they cannot rob you of eternal life. “And take they our life, Goods, fame, child, and wife, Though these all be gone, Our vict’ry has been won; The Kingdom ours remaineth” (LSB 656:4).

Take courage, dear brothers and sisters, knowing that your sin of denial has been forgiven in the blood of Christ, and that Jesus Himself wipes your bitter tears away. Thus you can confess Christ with renewed vigor, resting in His forgiveness when you fail, seeking consolation in His Word for all your fears, remembering that you have been set apart for this task in your Baptism, which has also washed you clean of all sin. When you die, whether it be at the hands of persecutors, or simply because this is the way of all flesh, your Lord Jesus will receive you into His heavenly mansion. On the Last Day, He will raise you and all the dead and give eternal life to all believers in Christ. Until that Day, as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes (1 Cor. 11:26). In coming to His altar, you confess Christ before men, receiving strength to continue in your good confession, and strengthening your brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ to do the same. May the Lord graciously keep us all unto salvation, even as He kept Peter, and may He grant us faithfulness that we confess our Lord in all the world. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] This year’s midweek sermons are based on the book, Sacred Head, Now Wounded (St. Louis: Concordia, 2009). While the sermons are my own, the themes and many of the concepts come from the book.

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