MIDWEEK LENT 4
March 26, 2014
Pastor Timothy J. Spaude
Text: Mark 14:66-72
“WHAT SHALL I DO WITH JESUS? DENY HIM?
Mark 14:66-72 (NIV 1984) “While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came by. 67 When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him. "You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus," she said. 68 But he denied it. "I don't know or understand what you're talking about," he said, and went out into the entryway. 69 When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, "This fellow is one of them." 70 Again he denied it. After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, "Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean." 71 He began to call down curses on himself, and he swore to them, "I don't know this man you're talking about." 72 Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: "Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times." And he broke down and wept.”
Pilate’s question has been guiding us in our Midweek Lenten worship. What shall I do with Jesus? Today our answer is another question: Deny Him? Automatically all minds think of Peter. If you’ve ever seen a play presented as a melodrama you know that it takes the plot lines to extremes. The good guys are very obviously the good guys. When they come on stage there is cheering and applauding. The bad guys are also very obviously the bad guys. When they appear people boo and hiss. If the Passion history of Jesus were presented as a melodrama this is one of those times when you would want to boo and hiss. Peter denying he even knew Jesus. What makes it worse is how Peter set himself up. We have to go back to verse 27-31 of Mark 14. Jesus was with his disciples in the Upper Room and said, "You will all fall away," Jesus told them, "for it is written: " 'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.' 28 But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee." 29 Peter declared, "Even if all fall away, I will not." 30 "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "today--yes, tonight--before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times." 31 But Peter insisted emphatically, "Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you." And all the others said the same.” Boo! Hiss! Such cockiness.
And then this. “While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came by. 67 When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him. "You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus," she said. 68 But he denied it. "I don't know or understand what you're talking about," he said, and went out into the entryway.” Boo! Hiss! Things were getting a little hot around that fire so Peter went out by the entryway to courtyard. That’s when things got worse. “When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, "This fellow is one of them." 70 Again he denied it.” Boo! Boo! He was warned directly, just a few hours ago. He’s not going to do it, is he? Deny that third time? “After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, "Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean." 71 He began to call down curses on himself, and he swore to them, "I don't know this man you're talking about." Groan. Aargh! How could he? That’s the melodrama of Peter’s denial. Easy to boo him. Kind of fun too.
But what would it look like in our lives? You know there’s something to say about Peter. At least people knew he was a follower of Jesus. Do they know we are followers of Jesus? Are we easily identified? Peter was seen with Jesus. He talked and perhaps dressed like a Galilean. Do people see us with Jesus? Not visibly but maybe with His word or a devotion book at lunch break. Does the way we talk, the words we choose to use and refuse to use, how we say the things we do give indications that we follow Jesus? Can all the people watching how we carry out work and play that we must follow Jesus? How about the clothes we wear or don’t wear? We are not talking about wearing some Christian uniform or a head covering like the Muslims but are the parts of our bodies that are supposed to stay covered, covered? You wonder if Peter had this idea of being identified as a follower of Christ in mind when he wrote, “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15) Set apart Christ as Lord in your heart. People will identify you as a follower of Jesus. They will ask you for the reason for you hope. But if we can’t be identified as followers of Jesus haven’t we already denied Him?
If we are identified as followers of Jesus, if we are known at our schools as those who follow Christ, or the goody two shoes at work then we will get other opportunities to deny Jesus. Normally that comes like it did with Peter. The Devil tempts you to be afraid of what others will think. Let’s apply Peter’s reaction to our own. Peter relied on his own strength. He thought he knew better than Jesus. If he had taken Jesus’ warning to heart he would have locked himself in a closet, any place, except where there were people to whom he could deny knowing Jesus. But no, Peter did not do that. I will never deny! I’m so strong that I can go right into the thick of things. And today Christians think they can try drugs just this once and not get seduced, that they can look but won’t touch, mess around just a little without it going too far, tell just a little lie. Peter learned. Later in life we see a Peter who relies on Christ for strength so that on another time when he was given the opportunity to deny Christ he boldly confessed even though that meant death.
And that’s the third thing we can learn from Peter’s denial. How to handle our own. “Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: "Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times." And he broke down and wept.” Peter was overcome with sorrow for his sins. He wept bitterly. Do you remember the last time you wept bitterly over sin? I’m sad to say I don’t. Our denials of Jesus don’t seem as blatant to us as someone else’s does.
But we need to remember that crying over our sins doesn’t fix our sins, or take them away, or free us from the punishment we are due. Only Jesus does that. Remember we were watching this as a melodrama. When the bad guy comes on you boo and hiss. But then there is the hero. You clap and cheer. Jesus is the hero in this story for Peter and for us. Yay! You saw in Luke’s account of Peter’s denial that after the third denial Jesus looked directly at Peter. His look was a call to repentance. Sorrow is only part of repentance. Repentance relies on the forgiveness of Jesus. Jesus assured Peter he was forgiven when three times He asked Peter, “Do you love me.” And three times told him to do His work, “Feed my sheep. Feed my lambs. Feed my sheep!” Peter sure got good at that. Jesus tells us we are forgiven too. He has commanded the Church to announce forgiveness so we do. Yay. We cheer the hero Jesus. He has provided the ongoing forgiveness meal of the Lord’s Supper. Yay! We cheer Jesus.
What shall I do with Jesus? Deny Him? As much as we say and mean we will never deny Him the sad truth is because of our sinful weakness in our own ways we will. So we need to answer the question another way. What shall I do with Jesus? Stay close to Him. Stay close to Him with daily use of His word. Stay close to Him with regular worship and taking the Lord’s Supper. Then like He did with Peter Jesus will recall us when we fall, lift us up, forgive us, and strengthen us to do His work. Maybe we could even get to be as good as Peter at that. Amen.