5th Sunday in Lent Sounds of the Passion, Part 5 “Crowing Rooster”
March 26, 2023 Luke 22:60-62
Dear brothers & sisters in Christ, [ READ text ] Luke 22:60-62 NIV
60 Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking,
the rooster crowed. (SOUND) 61 The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” 62 And he went outside and wept bitterly.
This is the sound of The Lord’s Passion today = a crowing rooster. Do you remember a magazine called ‘Readers Digest’? My mother has some of those going back to the 1930s. In any given issue, you can read a story like this: My name is Jimmy. I remember when I was in seventh grade. My parents refused to let me use our lawnmower on a job they thought was just too big for me. I, of course, knew better and took it anyway. When I got home, having quit about a fourth of the way thru =so yes, it was too much for me= I made up an elaborate story about mowing some another yard, and yammered on & on.
My parents just listened. When I finished, they looked at each other, and then at me, and my mom said, “You know, Jimmy, it’s bad enough that you disobeyed us, but it really hurts when you lie like this.” My parents knew the truth. I remember the look of deep disappointment on their faces. They expected better of me, and I failed them. (sound)
WE have let people down. It may not be because of a lie, and we might have unavoidable reasons why we couldn’t do what was expected or promised; and we know ‘that look’ on other’s faces. Maybe we have seen ‘that look’ on our own face in the mirror, because we have failed at something, & we know we have let God down.
When we feel that remorse of our sin, that sense of heavy guilt, we must be on guard. We must not be like Judas Iscariot – who decided that the only solution was to take his own punishment into his own hands by ending his own life == that just makes matters worse.
We can’t just escape this life; we must face the liability of our actions. This is what Peter did. He acknowledged his heavy failure & wept bitterly. With those tears he sought God’s mercy, putting his hope in forgiveness. He was pardoned by God, and restored to live again. Today’s Passion sound involves Peter. (sound)
Some people in this world are simple; they’re just less complicated than others; what you see is what you get. They don’t try to be more than they are; they’re mostly quiet & humble. They are predictable, ‘even-keeled’, stable, & you can count on them to remain that way. The picture we get of Peter is a bit different than that; he’s not quiet, not predictable or even-keeled. He’s a more complicated person, & we don’t know what part of him he’s going to show in any given moment. He’s the one that was often ‘front & center’, he’s more emotional, kind of loud & brash. He speaks his mind – whether he’s asked to or not. He was capable of tremendous insight, and then a minute later he’s got his foot in his mouth.
We read of that particular time, in Matt.16, when -in one moment- he openly proclaims Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and in the next moment, he’s telling Jesus that He can’t head to Jerusalem to fulfill what Isaiah prophesied about the Christ as the ‘suffering-servant’. Jesus rebuked him harshly: ‘get behind me, Satan!’ That was a really dangerous move, trying to keep Jesus from going to the cross. Likewise for US: it doesn’t matter how good our intentions might be, wrong-is-wrong, & sin is dangerous, contradicting God’s Word is Satan-territory = and we can’t afford to go there!
With Peter, we recall on the solemn night of celebrating the Passover Meal, in one moment Peter refuses to let Jesus wash his feet, and all of a sudden he wants Jesus to give him a complete bath. You & I probably know someone like this; they’re like a moving target, it’s hard to figure where they will be next. That’s Peter: either wonderful heights of insight & bravodo, OR misstepping & falling flat on his face in front of everyone. It’s during Jesus’ Passion that we get a good look at Peter’s contradictions.
On that Thursday night of what we call Holy Week, Jesus instructed a couple of disciples to prepare the Passover Meal; it would be Jesus’ Last Supper. Normally, that Meal was a celebration. And yet, Jesus was quite subdued; and they were all a bit confused & concerned as Jesus talked about sorrow, worry, betrayal, and death. Matt.26 says that they sang the final pslam of the Meal, and then walked out of the city, and over to the Mount of Olives. And as they walked, Jesus told the disciples, “This very night, you will all fall away.”
What would be your reaction if, after the last hymn is sung this morning, I would announce that by the end of this day, you will all resign your membership and run away from Immanuel Lutheran Church? Would your reaction be like some of the disciples as they looked at each other confused, wondering what could possibly happen to make that statement true? OR would you react like Peter who had been stewing all evening about why Jesus was so upset, & didn’t like all this talk about betrayal & death. But he did know one thing: He loved his Lord. So he immediately spouted off, saying: “No, Lord! Everyone else may fall away, but I will never fall away.”
Yep, that’s the classic Peter = speaking first & loud, with confidence. Sure, he could see a few of the others being too timid & a little soft; but not him, no way. As Jesus speaks in Matt.26, we can almost see the sadness in His eyes. He loved Peter very much, but He also knew Peter’s weaknesses. Jesus turns to him & says, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.”
That was like a gut-punch. How could Jesus say that? What about his loyalty up ‘til now? So, Peter protested vigorously: “Even if I must die with you, I’ll not deny you!” Jesus does not respond to that; time would tell who was right.
At the Mount of Olives, going into a familiar garden there, Jesus took Peter, James, & John with him to a secluded spot, and asked them to pray with him. And I’m sure they meant to. But as Jesus went off by himself, Peter sat down & probably bowed his head and began with a psalm. The next thing he knew, Jesus was next to him asking “Peter, can’t you even pray with me for one hour?” to fall asleep was a small failure, but Peter was embarrassed & probably said, “I’m sorry, Lord. I’ll try harder this time.” And Jesus goes away again.
Suddenly, Jesus is next to him again, nudging him awake & saying, “…the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners!” Peter rubs his eyes, being a little out-of-it because of all his ‘praying’. What is going on? What is this mob stomping toward the garden with clubs & swords? And is that Judas Iscariot with them? Is that why he left the meal early? It can’t be.
But quickly, Peter’s anger boils over. Seeing the swords & clubs, he remembers his own small sword, a common & handy fishing tool; it wasn’t much, but it might ward off this threat & let Jesus escape. Peter was not going down without a fight. Pulling the blade from it’s sheath, Peter lunged forward, to draw blood & prove that he was serious. He managed to cut off an ear! Well, they’d better back up or he’ll go for a bigger piece next time.
But before he can raise his hand again, he hears Jesus’ voice: “Peter! Put that thing away! Don’t you know that I could ask my Father and he would send more than 12 legions of angels? But then the Scriptures would not be fulfilled.” Then Jesus touched the man’s ear and healed it. For a moment, Peter considers what he just did. Only a crazy man would pull a small sword against this unit of the temple guard with multiple weapons. Fight or flight. Now there was no choice. Jesus said ‘no fighting’, and the garden was dark & full of hiding places; so he ran. He didn’t know if anyone would follow him, but he didn’t want to be in a Roman prison, so he would take his chances in the dark.
He ran, but he was able to meet up with John. He learned that Jesus was being taken to the palace of the high priest Caiaphas. John knew some of the servants in the high priest’s house, & was sure they would let him into the courtyard. Peter could come too. But should he? He was torn. On the one hand, he wanted to be close to his Lord. On the other hand, he was scared to death. He’d threatened Roman soldiers & had cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant. Judas could identify him, too. He would surely go to prison, & the Roman guards would torture him.
But, he had to see what they were doing with Jesus; he had to! Yes, he would go with John. Everyone would have bulky robes on, keeping warm; he could stay in the background. It wasn’t a great plan, but it was best one he could think of. But wouldn’t you know it? By his personality, he had become the face of the Twelve followers of Jesus. So, he hadn’t been in the courtyard more than a few minutes and he was recognized. It was one of the young serving girls. She said, “You; you were with Jesus the Galilean.”
Great! What could Peter do? She’d said it loud enough that others were now looking at him. He said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Suddenly he felt chilled, & pulling his cloak up over him more, he moved to another part of the courtyard.
Then another serving girl looked at him, and pointed him out to those standing by and said, “You were with that man, Jesus of Nazareth.” At this he ‘swore an oath’. Something like: ‘I swear on my mother’s grave, I do not know the man.’
And now moving to the fire for warmth, some of the bystanders came near and said, “But you must be one of His disciples, you have a Galilean accent. In fact, I think I saw you in the garden with Jesus when He was arrested.”
Peter’s mind is scrambling, & he thinks ‘why can’t these people leave me alone? Maybe screaming harsh language will help.’ (because we think that always helps!) So he says something like: “May God strike me dead if I’m lying: I don’t know that man!” (sound)
And so Jesus was right: three times, and then the rooster crowed. It is possible that this courtyard was small enough & close enough to where Jesus was that He actually heard Peter yelling & cursing, & denying to know Him. It is also possible that the Lord just knew when was the right time to turn & look at Peter as he utterly failed. And Peter could see ‘that look’ in Jesus’ eyes; the look of deep disappointment, of the bitter truth of failure coming home to roost. When the excuses no longer work, & the lies are exposed. The truth is laid bare. At which point there is just one real response: Peter left the courtyard and began to weep bitterly.
In some circles, this is refered to as ‘rock bottom’; you can’t get any lower. Have you ever been there? In Alcoholics Anonymous, it’s at the point of ‘rock bottom’ that a person gives up all their lies & lame excuses & self-justifications; they finally admit who they are with their destructive behaviors, and admit the falsehood their lives have been built on. They say, ‘My name is Peter, and I’m an alcoholic.’ In the case of Matt.26, ‘My name is Peter, and I have denied my Lord Jesus, and I have disowned Him.’
You know, this is exactly what is meant when we speak the truth with the confession of sins. ‘I, a poor miserable sinner,…’ We have been like Peter. We can puff ourselves up, and do a bit of boasting. It is good to be confident of our Lord in this faith, yet we can take confidence in ourselves a little too much. But each time we disobey Him, we deny Him. Each time we refuse to forgive another person, we disown the One who died on the cross to forgive us. When we don’t support the gospel work of His Church with our offerings, we deny Him.
When we stand on the sidelines and don’t help those in need, we ignore Him. Each time we tolerate someone’s sin just because Jesus’ moral ways are unpopular, or those times when we are silent & give the impression that we agree with those who disobey God’s Word & ways because we fear being rejected by our family or friends, more than we fear disappointing God. For all of those kinds of things, we fail God. Sin is disowning Jesus. And that is a most dangerous position to be in. (sound)
And then the Lord looks at us, and makes us see his face with that look. It may not be accompanied by a crowing rooster, but something happens to make us aware. It might be a Commandment that reminds us, or one of the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer, or maybe when hearing the promise of the body & blood given with the bread & wine, and the Spirit calls us to repent. It could be during that umteenth time that we use that old confession of sins, ‘I, a poor miserable sinner…’ It’s a sound that breaks our spiritual sleepiness and we realize the bitterness of our sins before God. We become Peter; exposed & truly sorry.
Yes, Jesus looked at Peter, and at us; but that look is with both the Law and the Gospel, as we Lutheran like to say. Don’t see just disappointment, because there’s more there in Jesus’ face. The Lord looks at us in disappointment AND with mercy & love. The truth of our sin is His call for us to repent of our sin, to be turned from it, and to receive His full, blood-bought and guarenteed forgiveness. Jesus looks at us to remind us that He did go all the way to the cross & grave in order to remove our sins away from us. With Peter, when the rooster crows, we repent, we weep, and then we wait = because we can trust that Jesus will never deny that His work on the cross was meant for failures —like us.
God forgives you! He forgives so that you will not lose your trust & hope in Him. Because God forgives, so we can begin again to live a new life. Peter did. In Jesus’ forgiveness, he became more loyal to Christ, more humble & cautious about his weaknesses, and more even-keeled & dependable in the faith. Repentance and forgiveness is how we all grow up & mature in this faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. One day, all these times of ups & downs in our christian lives will be done. That day is guaranteed by His empty tomb. In the meantime, our good news comes by the cross. It comes thru Jesus, the One who will not deny His grace & love toward us.