Peter Denies Jesus
Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house. But Peter was following at a distance. When they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them. Then a servant-girl, seeing him in the firelight, stared at him and said, ‘This man also was with him.’ But he denied it, saying, ‘Woman, I do not know him.’ A little later someone else, on seeing him, said, ‘You also are one of them.’ But Peter said, ‘Man, I am not!’ Then about an hour later yet another kept insisting, ‘Surely this man also was with him; for he is a Galilean.’ But Peter said, ‘Man, I do not know what you are talking about!’ At that moment, while he was still speaking, the cock crowed. The Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, ‘Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly.
The Mocking and Beating of Jesus
Now the men who were holding Jesus began to mock him and beat him; they also blindfolded him and kept asking him, ‘Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?’ They kept heaping many other insults on him.
Jesus before the Council
When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people, both chief priests and scribes, gathered together, and they brought him to their council. They said, ‘If you are the Messiah, tell us.’ He replied, ‘If I tell you, you will not believe; and if I question you, you will not answer. But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.’ All of them asked, ‘Are you, then, the Son of God?’ He said to them, ‘You say that I am.’ Then they said, ‘What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips!’
This will certainly come as no surprise to any of you, especially those who know me well, but I am imperfect. Pretty darn imperfect, and depending on the day I can be incredibly imperfect. Sometimes it is more obvious than others, and some days I may actually find the wisdom to draw near to the Holy Spirit's design for my life. Even then, though, I have flaws. Lots of them.
In years past, I have resisted the common theme of making new years' resolutions. Perhaps I simply didn't want to do what everyone else was doing, or maybe I simply thought my imperfections weren't obvious enough to need fixing around new years. I often believed that I should take up the work of correcting my mistakes whenever I recognize them, and while I still believe that, I also believe that I used that as an excuse not to set out on the difficult task of examining my life and seeking the Holy Spirit's wisdom to guide my feet on the next leg of the journey. Perhaps I may use fancier words that transcend the common new years' resolutions, but I believe that God is calling me to spend some time in silent reflection upon my habits and imperfections and set out on a journey to allow my heart to be guided by the Holy Spirit over the next year, that the next leg of my life may be spent falling deeper and deeper into love with God.
At the heart of my imperfections, I believe, are the different ways that I deny Jesus' Lordship in my life. At the heart of each of our imperfections is the simple fact that we find different ways to deny his Lordship. We each do things, everyday, that Christ would not have us do. If we truly allowed Christ to be Lord over every aspect of our life, we would live differently than we do. How differently depends on the degree of sin in each of our lives, but we are each imperfect. When we reflect upon our imperfections, the Spirit can guide us into repentance and then into action, that we might allow our lives to be shaped around God's will for our lives, rather than our own.
In today's passage, I'd like to lift up three different ways that characters deny Christ. They are different in word and tone, but at the heart is the refusal to allow Christ to be Lord of the heart.
First, we have Peter's very obvious denial. Peter is, quite possibly, my favorite disciple. Why? Because he is so visibly and obviously broken. He is passionate about following Jesus, and yet his failures are well-detailed in the Gospels. He is imperfect, and Jesus loves him, even when he messes up. Here, just after Jesus has been arrested, after he has cut off a slaves' ear, after he has promised to follow Jesus to death, Peter is denying knowing the very man. He would probably deny laying eyes on Jesus given the chance—he knows that association with Jesus may lead to death, and Peter is in full on save-yourself mode here in the courtyard. Peter, the rock upon which Jesus will build the church, denies Christ openly with his words. Notice, here in Luke, how Peter is reminded of his sin of denial—it's when Jesus looks at him. When Peter is confronted by the Word made flesh, Peter recognizes his sin for what it is.
From here, we go to the story of Jesus being beaten by the ones who hold him. They mock him and his abilities to prophecy. They mock what he stands for and the holiness that drips from him. They mock him and abuse their power, beating him because they know can. They heaped insults upon him, certain that they had power over him. By their actions, they denied the Lordship of the Prince of Peace.
After that long night had passed, Jesus is taken before an assembly of the elders of the people, chief priests and scribes, and they want to know if he is the Son of God. They want him to say something that will allow him to condemn him to death. They're not interested in the truth—they don't want to be confronted with his glory—they simply need a reason to put him to the death they have already planned. They think they know how the story ends, they think they know all the details, they just need Jesus to supply the one missing piece—something by which to convict him to death. If he doesn't, they'll come up with something, but they're hoping Jesus will give them what they so deeply want. They deny the Lordship of Christ by believing in their own wisdom, by believing they know everything and not listening to what Christ has to say. In their unwillingness to trust Jesus, they deny him.
From the text, we turn to our own lives, and I hope that I can present you with some things to think about over the coming minutes and hours and days. I hope that I can offer some meat that you might chew on, that might offer some direction, that you may do some self-examination and perhaps seek the Holy Spirit's guidance on how you might change in the coming year to more closely align your life with God's will for you.
First, I think we would be wise to join with Peter in examining our words. Does the way you talk glorify God? Do your words acknowledge that Jesus is Lord of everything you do, of everything you say—or do you set aside parts of your day and not offer them to God?
We can talk about faith in two different ways. First, we can talk to others about the difference it makes to us that we are a Christian. We can talk about our relationship with Christ to others—we can talk about how it is food for our souls, about how it nourishes us each and every day, about how we struggle when we do not have it.
The other way is to recognize that everything we say reflects upon who we are. What kind of language do you use? Are you kind to others when you talk, or are you rude? Do you use foul language and take the Lord's name in vain? If someone was handed a sheet of paper with everything you said in a day recorded, could you be proud of how you conducted yourself? Or would you be embarrassed? How we talk to others is part of our witness—even if we're not talking about our faith, we're talking in a way that reflects upon our faith, because we are a people who proclaim that everything we do matters to God.
Need a guide? I'd recommend spending some time in the Word, seeing how other people of faith conducted themselves—just as the nearness of Jesus made Peter recognize his sin, the nearness of Scripture helps us see our own sin.
Secondly, I'd like to invite you to reflect upon your actions. Do you conduct yourself in a way that reflects a man or woman seeking God in everything you do? Do the choices you make with your life witness to someone who is pointed towards the Kingdom of heaven, or are you making choices to enlarge your own kingdom? Those charged with watching over Jesus conducted themselves in a way that sought to entertain themselves at the expense of Jesus Christ—are you spending too much time in shallow entertainment and not enough time in deep commitment to a relationship with Christ? Are you choosing to invest yourself and your energy in a life of witness to a greater power? Are you choosing to serve? Our actions are part of our witness—and we can choose to acknowledge or deny Jesus Christ's Lordship in our actions as well as our words.
Finally, we come to the chief-priests and the scribes. They thought they had all the answers. They thought they knew the path they were called to walk, and they were certain that no one else was going to tell them they were wrong. They were so unwilling to trust God's leadership that they didn't listen to Christ calling them into a new way of life. In doing so, they denied Christ. Will you be like these few, or will you be contrite and go to God in humility, seeking guidance? Will you spend some honest time in heartfelt prayer, seeking God's wisdom, rather than your own? Will you admit that you don't have all the answers, but that you worship a God who does? Or will you continue on the same path you've always been on, certain of yourself and how you think things will go?
Friends, we have a choice—in each and everything we do, we can deny or acknowledge Christ's Lordship in our lives. Each of us has areas of our lives in which we need to change. Each of us has a growing edge that God is asking us to offer to Him, so that he might help us grow.
This year, what will you choose? Will you choose the hard road of discipleship?
Let us pray.