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John 18:1-27

“Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water”

“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”

‘Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble’”

“Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.”

“Lord, even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!”

These are the saying of Peter the rock. What a far cry from “I do not know the man,” and not one slip up but three times he denied every knowing Jesus. "Woman, I don't know him."

The boldest of all disciples, who promised to storm the gates of hell with our Lord, shakes and falls, terrified at the suspicion of a teenage girl. 

Yes that bold confessor of the faith, the rock becomes more like sandstone, he crumbles.

At the kanagaroo court of Jesus arrest and trial, Peter finds a nice place by the fire. It’s cold out there and the blaze of the charcoal and ember fire is warm.

After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, "Surely you are one of them, for your accent gives you away." Then he began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, "I don't know the man!" Immediately a rooster crowed. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: "Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times." And he went outside and wept bitterly.

The hymn we just sang by Thomas Kingo is right to remind all of us of our own frailty. We all wear Adam’s flesh. We easily stumble and fall. The Lord prior to his arrest had warned his disciples as he warns us even now, “Watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

And in your case, you know how true that is. When family and friends, say all religions are basically the same, what sort of good confession did you give? When your really cool friends mocked Christians for the truth about marriage being only between a man and woman, were you embarrassed about God’s Word? Did you nod your head in agreement. Were you afraid to be called a bigot, and went along with the crowd? Oh, it may have seemed innocent enough. But Jesus of course said, whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory.

When the poor begging woman on the street pleaded with you for a few dollars maybe you could have spared a little. But you held your wallet tight, and moved on. Truly, I don’t know the man, you said.

Of course, above all, our thoughts accuse us. We daydream about luxuries, pleasures, and conveniences. We live in the city of man and place ourselves first. Like Peter, we get cozy and warm around the glowing embers of comfort. We’re horribly afraid to suffer.

Earlier that night Jesus had said to Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. But when you have repented, strengthen your brothers.”

But before Peter could strengthen his brothers, Jesus had to bear that dreadful curse for fair-weather friends and shifty disciples. While we avoid suffering and seek comfort above all things, our Lord submitted to the Father’s plan to save. Unlike, us he doesn’t put himself first. He put himself last of all and himself became of servant. He makes it a number one priority to save fallen man. To lift man up from the dust of death.

Caiaphas preaches a profound truth tonight. It was he who advised the Jews that it would be expedient that one man should die for the people.   

And so it was. One man to bear the weight of the world’s sin, to suffer, die, and be laid in a tomb, for betrayers, deniers, and fair-weather friends.  

While Judas acknowledged his wickedness, he despaired of Christ’s mercy, was devoured by the devil, and his bowels gushed out. But Peter was restored in the upper room and at the sea shore. The risen Christ, alive from the grave, came with words of comfort. He ate with Peter. Three times Jesus asked Peter if he loved him. Yes, Lord, you know that I love you. Then feed my lambs, said Jesus. 

Peter, of course did just that. He owed much and so much was forgiven, and he loved Christ all the more. He strengthened his brothers by preaching the Gospel. He became the pillar of the early church in Jerusalem. He did not deny Christ, and Christ did not deny him, when he was crucified upside down. He was transferred by angels to the kingdom of God – in heavenly light.

Our holy religion, is filled with stories such as Peter’s for your benefit. There are no saints who did not stumble. No prophets or patriarchs, or disciples who did not fall. 

On that day, that you stood tall and proud, at your first communion, or confirmation, you wore a white robe. You promised that you would rather die than deny Christ in the slightest way.

But your words and deeds, your checkered past, tell another story. You haven’t exactly been a Rock, the model disciple. You haven’t lived up to your Christian name given at your baptism.   

Lent is a season of repentance. It’s a good to be Lutheran. Our Lutheran fathers have taught so clearly on repentance. And taught in such a comforting way. We teach that there is forgiveness of sins for those who have fallen after Baptism whenever they are converted.

Every year, week to week, hour to hour, minute by minute. Thanks be to God, Christ deals gently with you.

Faith, born of the Gospel, believes that for Christ’s sake, sins are forgiven. You are delivered from fear, and every pain of conscience. He bore the curse that you would be blessed from heaven. He was condemned that you would be set free.  

Oh, and good works do follow. For St. Peter and for you, good works, which God prepared beforehand, that you should walk in them. Being kind and tenderhearted toward one another, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Each being mindful of your own frailty, and the mercy that God has shown you, apart from any merit or worthiness on your part.

Confess your sins. Acknowledge that you have crumbled, fallen apart, failed, and denied him. But then look to Him who loved you unto death. Look to him as he pours forth his blood sacrificially, bearing the judgment that stood against you. He paid it all in full and then some. Bask in the undeserved love of God and receive His divine approval. Let your conscience be at perfect peace as his righteousness and blessedness is credited freely to your account.

Like I said, there’s never been a saint who did not stumble and fall. But this Christ stoops down to you, reaches out to you. He lifts you up through those sweet words of absolution. He restores you to your father in heaven and the family of God. Stands you up again and reinstates you to the company of angels – a life of eternal blessedness.

Though you fail, your Jesus will not. And when he comes again in His glory, He will not deny you. In the name of Jesus. Amen.