Scripture Reading: John 18:12-27
Before we dig into this morning’s text, we should pause for a moment and remember what happened at the end of John 13 as Jesus had the last supper with his friends. This encounter happened after what we looked at last week, where Jesus washed the feet of the disciples.
When he [Judas] was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.
“My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?”
Jesus replied, “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.”
Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!
We should remember this when we pick up in our reading today. Jesus predicted Peter would deny knowing him. Yet, Jesus continues to love him.
It reminds me a bit of those videos you see online, where the parent is filming the kid and asks the question, “Did you make this mess?”
The kid says “Nooooo!”
Meanwhile the marker and crayons that’s all over the walls also covers the kid head to toe, and they are still holding the marker in their hand. You’ve seen those videos right? Or maybe you’ve seen them in real life in your own living room!
It’s a good thing kids are cute, otherwise there might be a lot fewer humans on the planet… that and God told us not to murder anyone. So I guess there’s two reasons why there are so many people in the world right now.
Sometimes the desire to avoid punishment leads us to plead innocence even when the evidence stacked against us is overwhelming!
But then again, there are numerous examples of real life court cases where it seemed a trial was a lock for a guilty charge, yet the surprise outcome of innocence or even the case being thrown out of court because of small technicalities catches us by surprise. So if someone who looks guilty can get off scott free in our judicial system, maybe a cute smile and a giggle can get us out of trouble at home too.
Sometimes maybe even flat out denial might work if we’re lucky. This seemed to be Peter’s approach.
Jesus has been arrested in the garden and is now meeting with various leaders and religious figures to determine his fate. As part of the chaos around the arrest of Jesus, Peter grabbed a sword and cut off one of the high priest’s servant’s ears. Why Peter even had a sword is a good question, so I’m sure he’s feeling a bit nervous as Jesus goes through his public trial. He’s probably a bit unsure of what will happen to those who follow Jesus and are his friends.
You know the saying, “guilty by association” right?
That’s kind of how Peter feels. Yet Peter wants to stay close to Jesus, he wants to see what is happening to his friend. He fears there may be guilt by association. He fears there may be repercussions for his little sword incident. He’s just trying to keep up on the details of what’s happening as inconspicuously as possible. There’s no Facebook or Twitter where he can check on the latest news from the safety of his home!
Peter wants to be as close to the action as possible, but he’s also hoping he isn’t noticed. But he is. So what is he going to do? Is he going to risk being arrested as well, or is he going to deny.
And just as predicted, he denies three times and then the rooster crows. Peter remembers what Jesus has said just a few hours before, and he feels terrible. While we don’t know this for sure in the Gospel of John, Luke tells us in his gospel Peter “… went outside and wept bitterly,” (Luke 22:62) when he remembered what Jesus had said.
Amidst all this tossing and turning in the emotional rollercoaster of Peter’s devotion to Jesus, this is not the only thing going on.
Jesus is undergoing questioning from various authorities. First he stands in front of Annas, the father-in-law to Caiaphas. As John reminds us that Caiaphas is the one who more or less pushed the Jewish leaders to seek to eliminate Jesus from their lives. He is the one who said it would be good for one man to die for the people.
In other words, if the Jewish leaders want to keep their people in line, if they want to hold onto their influence and power, then Jesus needs to die. Society was running along just fine in their eyes before Jesus came along. They had money coming in. They had power. They made the rules. People came to them for help. They had it all.
Jesus has changed all that. He has exposed the Jewish leaders for what they are, people looking out for themselves. As result, the Jewish people they ruled over were suffering unjustly. Jesus was working to fix that problem. They didn’t like Jesus doing this.
So Annas grills Jesus on the things he’s been teaching and also about his disciples.
Jesus answers truthfully about all he has said, and he also asks the priest to check with the people to verify what he has been saying. When accusing voices speak against Jesus, he challenges them to point out his lies, which of course they cannot do.
Annas realizes he’s not getting anywhere in his questioning of Jesus, sends him off to Caiaphas for more. Annas wants nothing more of Jesus.
They are still trying to figure out who Jesus is. They don’t believe he’s the Messiah because he doesn’t look like the Messiah they are looking for. They are looking for a great priestly type figure who lives by all their rules. Instead they get a poor carpenter’s son from the middle of nowhere. This Jesus cannot be the Messiah they are looking for.
Yet, Peter can see differently. He’s been with Jesus all along. He’s heard pretty much everything Jesus has said. He’s seen all the miracles. He’s been there.
But even then, he denies knowing Jesus at his most crucial hour. On trial for sins he never committed, Jesus is just hours away from his execution. And his friends have abandoned him.
Yet all is not lost.
Remember, Jesus predicted Peter would deny knowing him. Peter, the one Jesus called “the rock”, the one who would build his church, Jesus knew even when he called him these things in Matthew 16, knew Peter would leave him at the time when he might most need him.
But it has to happen this way. It does!
Jesus makes this journey alone because he is the only one who can complete it, he is the only one who can take it all the way to the end. No one else will die for his cause. Only Jesus, today. Only Jesus.
He does it alone because he is the only perfect Son of God who is able to carry the sins of the entire world, for all time, on his shoulders. He is the only one who can go into death and fight a battle with the devil we can never win, and come out victorious just three days later.
Only Jesus can do these things. Not Peter. Not any of the disciples. Not me. Not any of you. Only Jesus.
He is the lamb who was slain for the world. The last sacrifice needed to bring people back into close relationship with God.
The difference in this sacrifice is that we don’t offer it, God offers it on our behalf. All we need to do is accept it has been done for us.
Even Peter, who denied knowing Christ three times went on to have an incredible ministry of his own as he built Christ’s church. When he realized what Jesus had done after his resurrection, after Peter received the Holy Spirit, he fully understood why Jesus had to die and why he died alone.
Peter’s guilt was gone. He knew why Christ took it all on himself. Why? Because Peter wasn’t strong enough to do it on his own.
But Jesus is.
Jesus is strong enough to take all our sin to the cross and die on our behalf so we may know that he is with God, he is from God, and through him we also may be with God.
So in a way, Caiaphas was right. It is better for one man to die for the people. Because that man is Jesus.
Sure, there are times we even we will deny Jesus in our lives. Someone might ask where you were this morning, and you might say, “O I was just in church.”
And they’ll ask you, “What happened in church? What did you do?”
And you might say, “O we sang some hymns, we prayed a bit, you know… the usual.”
And then the other person might think to themselves, “How boring, glad I didn’t go!”
Now, what you said is perfectly true. We came and sang. We prayed. We read from the Bible. We saw our friends.
But what about what God is doing this morning? Did you share any of that? Did you share about how the Holy Spirit touched you this morning? Did you share how you love coming here and hate to miss it?
Wouldn’t that be more exciting for others to hear about than the “same old, same old?”
Jesus is alive and well in the world today. He is alive and well in our church and in our lives, if we open ourselves to all he has to offer us.
If we are willing to say, “Yes, I know Jesus. I spent time with him every day and twice on Sundays!” then we will not deny Jesus.
There’s no need to deny Jesus. Because he went to the cross already. He’s has taken all our punishment and set us free. We are free to share his name and the stories of all he has done in the Bible and in our own lives. There will be no persecution for knowing him any more.
A life we can share with others so they also will know Jesus was the one who died for all the people, all God’s people!
He died for all of us. He died for our sin. He died for our freedom. He died for our lives. He died so we may be with God.
He is our sacrifice. He is our strength. He is our Saviour.
He is the one who is above all others. He is God among us.
Let us pray,
In you we have all things. We have joy. We have hope. We have peace. We have love. All things you promised to us in your life. All things we receive through the power of your Holy Spirit.
Jesus, give us courage to not feel the need to deny you any longer. Give us the strength to share your name and how it impacts our lives and our church as we receive the gift of your sacrifice on the cross.
Give us reassurance that through your resurrection we too have won the battle you fought on our behalf, and we have inherited the reward of the heavenly kingdom.
Lord Jesus, these things you have done, you did for us, all God’s children, so we may have life with you.
We thank you Jesus, and may we continue to grow in love with you.
We pray this in your most holy name. Amen and amen.