March 24, 2019 Remember Jesus’ Words
Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,
*What do you do to remember something? Many people use an electronic note-pad on their phone, or set an alert to chime at the right time, or on a certain day. Others use the old-school method of putting a sticky note where it’ll be easily seen. I think very few actually used the cliché memory helper == tying a string around a finger. There are some UNintended ways to remember things. Like when the smoke alarm goes off, we remember that we left something in the oven; or when that ding-sound goes off to remind us we’ll run out of gas in 50 miles.
In Luke 22, Jesus employed a special alarm-sound == a rooster crowing. At that sound, Peter remembered the words Jesus had said.
During these Lent Sundays, we’re looking at the way the Bible uses the word remember, and how it indicates that God is not just ‘thinking’ about us, he is ‘doing’ something for us. When God remembers, He acts; when God causes us to remember, He moves us to act. Either way, remembering leads to doing something.
Our text is Luke 22 vs 61-62: “And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly.” As the rooster crowed, Peter remembers, & Jesus’ words showed Peter his sin. And then, at the power of those words, Peter repented. This is our theme: God Causes His Word to Be Remembered So That People Repent.
Peter had started that evening with confidence & good intentions. When Jesus said, “You will all fall away,” Peter said, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” That’s when Jesus said, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” “But [peter] said emphatically, ‘If I must die with you, I will not deny you.’ And they all said the same.” (Mk 14:27, 29–31). What Peter & the other disciples were saying was good, but just ‘words’; & as things developed, they didn’t have the power to keep their word.
THAT is completely different than with Yahweh; so the Son of God always has the power to keep His Word. His Word was true: He would be denied, & then deserted & crucified. Peter’s denial was part of the prophecy from Zech.13, 500 yrs earlier: “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.” Many modern so-called ‘bible scholars’ do not believe these verses about Peter and Jesus. Instead, they criticize & explain away this Word. First, they complain that one gospel says a rooster crowed, but another says the rooster crowed twice = but that doesn’t change anything Jesus said. THEN they say that the whole thing must be false since chickens weren’t even allowed in Jerusalem. They get that from ‘the Mishnah’, which is a very old collection of Jewish writings about the Law of Moses. And, it does say “It is forbidden to raise fowl in Jerusalem.” (Bava Kama 7:7). So they argue that the Bible is wrong. Other scholars have tried to say ‘it’s not wrong, it’s just not literal.’ Because the phrase “the rooster crowed” could refer to a man speaking; like a wife might refer to her husband as ‘that old rooster’. Not very flattering, but possible. Others try to relate this phrase, not to an actual rooster, but to ‘time of day’. This is from Mk.13, where it says that the return of Christ might be “in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows.” That’s referring to a time of day, about 3am. So, scholars wonder: Did Peter hear an actual rooster crow, and then remember what Jesus said, OR did he remember what Jesus said at 3am?
I think they’re all thinking too hard. The natural language of the Gospels would indicate an actual rooster. I like the idea that Jesus actually sent a rooster, especially where there weren’t supposed to be any roosters around, just to bring Peter to repentance. Because God causes His Word to be remembered so that people repent.
*What does God send to US so that we remember His Word, and repent? In that one sense, God sends a rooster to us. The preaching of God’s Law is like a rooster crowing; it’s a wake-up call to our old sinful nature. That may not seem very flattering to a pastor, but the preaching of the Law is a necessary part of proclaiming God’s whole Word; and that Word still has the power to DO for us what God sends it out to do.
We learn in our Small Catechism that the Law is a mirror to show us our sin. God’s Rules are held up in front of us, and powerfully show us what we’re really like; how sinful we are.
As St. Paul said in Rom.3:20, “thru the Law comes knowledge of sin.” We have sinned against God in ‘thought, word and deed’; by what we have done, and what we have left undone.’
James used the mirror illustration; he says, “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away, and at once forgets what he was like.” (Jas 1:23–24).
This fits-in well with the Bible word remember, and how it involves both the thought in the mind and the resulting action. When we look in the mirror, and our hair is all messed up, or we have dirt on our face, we fix our hair & clean our face. When we see our sins in the mirror of the Law, the proper action is to repent; to stop &turn away from it, to seek forgiveness, and begin doing what is right.
*Why would we not repent if -in God’s mirror- we see our wrongs? Because we’re stubborn & defiant. God ‘crows’ to us so we will see, & turn from our sin; but we want to resist. God’s Word would lead us to repentance so that we might live & not fight against Him & His kingdom, and not die in our sins.
And yet, too often, we hear the preacher and think he’s talking to someone else, someone worse than us. But, *is that why we come here to church, to listen to God speak to someone else? Maybe a preacher is not as interesting as a crowing rooster; but there’s no perfect messenger, & it’s not about the messenger. God’s Word has God’s power to stop us & change us. Sometimes we may go out & weep bitterly, like Peter did; / sometimes we just have quiet regrets, we tell God we’re sorry, and we go out ready to do better.
When we come & hear God’s Law, we might be tempted to run away because we’re ashamed; but with baptism-faith we don’t run away. We respond like Peter with this truth: “Lord, where else can we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
So, besides the Law & repentance, Jesus has another Word for us in Luke 24:47, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer, and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His Name to all nations…” Repentance and forgiveness go hand-in-hand. When God leads people to repent, and to confess their sins, God “is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” =1Jn.1:9.
God didn’t point out Peter’s sin and then ‘make him pay’, or leave him. God forgave and restored Peter. You don’t have to be a Bible scholar to notice the connection between Peter’s denying Jesus 3 times and Jesus reinstating Peter 3 times in John 21, where Jesus says: “Peter, do you love Me?.. Feed my lambs; ..tend my sheep; ..feed my sheep.” God did not turn away from sinful Peter; God worked to turn Peter back to Himself.
And when Peter was turned, Jesus told him again: “Follow me.”(Jn 21:19). God’s Word causes us to repent; His forgiveness causes us to follow & obey Him.
God’s forgiveness is really a wonder; it’s a true miracle of bottomless grace. Whatever God forgives is gone; as God says in Isaiah = He remembers sin no more. That -too- is an action; it’s on purpose. Peter’s denial was now gone; that sin would never again come up in God’s court. Between Peter’s denial & repentance at 3am Good Friday morning until Jesus’ forgiveness & restoration, there was a little time = at least a week. But Peter waited-on-the-Lord; *where else could Peter go to receive the words of life? So, he waited and he received.
In his first Epistle, the Spirit had Peter write: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.” (1 Pet 5:6). And maybe remembering his bitter tears, Peter wrote: “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” (1Pet 5:10). God Causes His Word to Be Remembered So That People would Repent & be forgiven.
Peter knows that -when we hear that crowing sound of the Law- it’s not for someone else == it’s for you; it’s for me. And, that’s good, because it has the power of a mirror to show us our condition so that He can fix us. After the mirror, God holds up in front of us the cross for us to see our forgiveness; // and after the cross, God pours out on us His Spirit, who uses His Word to be as a spring of water welling up to good fruit and eternal life.
God restores us; not so we will keep repeating the same old sins, but /to follow Him; /to keep in step with the Spirit; /to produce fruit in keeping with repentance; /& to strive toward the goal to win the prize == for God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus. God’s roosters have crowed this message of both Law and Gospel; and you & I have heard that message, and are continuing to respond in thanksgiving, and in willing obedience and service to our Lord.
I’ve heard that more & more towns & cities have ordinances that allow people to keep chickens; but not roosters, because of the noise. At the time of Jesus, the Jewish law didn’t allow roosters in Jerusalem; but at that time, the Romans were in charge of Jerusalem, and history says they liked omelets more than they cared about Jewish laws.
So, it was probably a Roman rooster that crowed for Peter. But, it was the Lord’s alarm, to cause Peter to remember the words of Jesus, and so repent, / and to receive forgiveness, / and to be restored as a wanted & loved servant of God. In the same way, God has remembered YOU; you are hearing the same message because you are a wanted & loved servant of God.