Midweek Lent Sermon 2: March 19, 2014

Matthew 26:74-75 (Lent Midweek 2—The Crucified King)

“The King Denied”

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT

March 19, 2014

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. 

Our text for is the Gospel lesson recorded in Matthew 26:

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.    

In the end, it didn’t take much.

It didn’t take much for Peter’s courage to fail. At least when the Israelites’ courage failed them at the Red Sea, it was because Pharaoh and his mighty army were chasing them. At least when the ten faithless spies discouraged Moses from trying to go in and take the Promised Land, it was because they had seen “giants.” And at least when King Saul chickened out, it was because he caught a good glimpse of a 9-foot, 9-inch enemy warrior named Goliath.

But in the end, all it took for Peter were two servant girls and some bystanders.

Whatever happened to bold Peter, who made the Great Confession?  “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” (Matthew 16:16) he said, confessing Jesus to be God’s anointed King.  What happened to the brave Peter of bold promises?  “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” (Matthew 26:35) he proclaimed in the Upper Room.  And whatever happened to the loyal and protective Peter, who when they came to arrest Jesus, had the courage to stretch out his arm and slice away at Jesus’ opponents?  What happened to valiant Peter, who went further than most of the disciples, all the way to the courtyard of the high priest?

“I do not know the man” (Matthew 26:72).  In the end, it didn’t take much for loyal Peter to become disloyal Peter.  For Jesus to go from God’s “King” to just a “man.”  His Galilean accent gave him away to those in the courtyard, but his words gave him away as a denier of the One who said, “Whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny before My Father who is heaven” (10:33).  In the end, Peter loved his life too much to lay it down for a friend.  And the Great Confessor became the Great Denier.

In the end, it doesn’t really take much for you and me either, does it?  At least Peter’s life was on the line. All it takes for you and me to deny Jesus some days is the risk of a little loss of popularity among the co-workers, the loss of a little popularity among our classmates, and the possibility of not seeming “nice.”  All it takes for us some days to deny Jesus is the risk of a little strife in the family, or even the risk of being alienated by worldly acquaintances who despise Jesus but whose affection we covet.  In the end, it doesn’t take much for those bold promises we made at our confirmation, to “suffer all, even death” rather than fall away from “this confession and Church” to be conveniently ignored.

It doesn’t take much for us to deny Jesus before men.  Our sin renders us more than just being a lawbreaker; it’s more like being a traitor—a traitor to the One who spared no cost to save us.  Let that rooster’s brilliant early morning law sermon pierce us hard, as the Law places us, too, in that disgraceful category of traitor.

But weep not.  For while your loyalty the King has its limits, that same King’s mercy has no limits.  In the end, it wouldn’t have taken much for Peter or you and I to be remembered as a denier. But in the end, the King’s mercy wouldn’t let us to be remembered that way.  For while Peter’s courage took him further than most men would go, Christ went further because He loved sinners more than He loved His own life.  And He went further, all the way to the bloody cross to do alone what only He could do.  “He went alone, under the Shall and the Must and the ‘It is written’ of God, to stand, unsustained and solitary, where no man else could stand.”[1]

“If we are faithless, He remains faithful—for He cannot deny Himself,” (2 Timothy 2:13) St. Paul wrote to Timothy.  In the end, the King of kings could not deny His office as Servant of servants. Jesus set aside His divine power and fearlessly went to the cross to bear our disloyalty so that you and I will not be denied before the Father, who now delights in us.  In the end, Jesus courageously went to the cross to expose Himself to all of God’s wrath against all of mankind’s sin, against all that makes people fear. And Jesus defeated it.  In the end, Christ could never deny His office as Savior, and so rose from the dead to impart to you and me the peace that passes all understanding, the peace that comes by the blood of His cross.

The heavenly Father allowed Peter to stand among friends and make the Great Confession.  But our great comfort is that Jesus left that courtyard that night without friends, and would soon stand before Pontius Pilate and make the good confession.  Peter’s accent gave him away and it made him hold on tightly to his life.  Our comfort is that Jesus, God in the flesh, who had that same Galilean accent, had a different Galilean heart, one that was willing to lay down His life for guilty sinners.  That king of the birds, that strutting rooster, preached a short but effective law sermon that morning.  But in the end, it’s that short Gospel sermon by our Crucified King on the cross—“It is finished”—that makes us happy as larks.

In the end, it took the life of God on a cross to save us from the hellish Pharaoh named “Satan,” and He gave up His life for us.  In the end, it took water from Jesus’ side to fill this baptismal font to wash you clean and bring you into the Promised Land, and Jesus gave it.  In the end, Christ didn’t chicken out, but stretched out His arms on the cross and defeated the “giants” of sin, death, and the devil, so that the hands of your pastor might be stretched out to you at this altar, giving you the blood that forgives you, enlivens you, perfects you, and renders you God’s faithful and loyal friend.  Amen.

[1] Martin Franzmann, Follow Me: Discipleship According to Matthew (St. Louis: Concordia, 1961, 1982), p. 207.

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