Knowing God Perfectly in the Passion of Jesus: Palace of the HighPriest
Wednesday of Lent 3
2 March 2016
+Jesu Juva +
The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ: The Palace of the High Priest/ Lenten Catechetical Theme: Knowing God Perfectly!
Brothers and sisters, tonight as sinners, you have the joy of knowing what to expect from God and receiving it. What are you the sinner to expect and receive from God? Well, it’s salvation. Redemption. Restoration. Reconciliation. It is the forgiveness of your sins. As God forgives you for Jesus’ sake you know God perfectly. After all, Jesus is the Servant that suffers. He suffers silently and enduringly — for Peter, for you and for all. Peter’s story is your story. You’re no different than Peter. You’re no better. Learn this evening what you are to expect and receive from God in Jesus from the Passion Reading. I better get started. Here goes.
If there was ever a sinner who needed God’s forgiveness, who would that be? You? Of course! God be praised that you would say that! Who else? Yes, that’s right, Peter. Remember Peter’s overconfident and bold promise from last week? “If I have to die with you, I will never deny you.” And you would have said the same thing. Just as boldly. Just as overconfidently.
So, the Lord gives Peter three opportunities to confess that Jesus truly is the Lord. Three times Peter can tell those who ask that Jesus is the Messiah and that he is one of Jesus’ faithful hangers on. Peter has the magnificent opportunity to say to the maidservants of the high priest and those just hanging around, “Yes, I am a disciple of Jesus! Straight up! Proud to be one! Do you too want to be a disciple of Jesus? Would you like to be on of His hangers on? Let me tell you more about Him. How about I set up some dates and times for your catechesis and your becoming disciples of Jesus like me?”
Tragically, however, Peter loses his apostolic nerve, thinks only about himself, his welfare, saving his own skin. Sadly, Peter denies that He even knows the Lord Jesus. Wants nothing to do with Jesus! Excludes himself from Jesus! Disassociates himself from Jesus. Divorces himself from Jesus with oaths and curses! There too the disciple fails. After all, Jesus had taught Peter, “Do not take an oath at all,” (Mt 5:34). And cursing … well … Peter should have used God’s name to bless and not curse.
Now what? What would Peter … what would you expect to receive from Jesus? Let’s see. Betrayed, arrested and shackled Jesus endures what seem to be unending assaults of hatred and cruelty that bombard Him. It’s one attack after another. False testimony by false witnesses. The charge of blasphemy or sacrilege by the high priest. The decision that He must die. Then the mockery of the mental and physical abuse goes into high gear: “Then some of them began to spit on him; they blindfolded him, struck him, and said to him, ‘Prophesy to us, O Christ, who is it that struck you?’ The guards beat him as they took him away.” All done to discredit and demonize His claim to be the Messiah come to save them. After all, if you can spit, slap and strike Him; if He’s so defenseless, then He surely can’t be who He claims to be – “the Christ, the Son of the Blessed.”
Jesus, however, remains the oppressed and afflicted Servant who, “opens not his mouth,” as “the Lord lays on him the iniquity of us all,” (Is. 53:7). Servant Jesus suffers in silence. He bears it all, all by Himself. He even bears the iniquity of the “first” of his disciples and apostles. Peter’s sin is part of the burden Servant Jesus willing takes in His suffering Body.
The rooster crows a second time. Jesus “turns and looks at Peter.” Peter melts. Breaks down. Runs out. The tears flow. Sobs uncontrollably. Will Satan be able to have Peter? Sift him? Shake and disturb him to get some of the wheat of God’s harvest for himself just like he did with Judas who took his own life when he saw that Jesus was condemned and despaired of expecting or receiving divine forgiveness?
Whatever kind of look Jesus gave to His apostle, reproach, sorrow, appeal or all three, Peter must have seen in that look Jesus’ unfailing love who had prayed for him so that his faith would not utterly fail. You remember that don’t you? “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail,” (Lk 22:31-32).
This is what Peter was given to expect and receive from Jesus! To the very end Suffering Servant Jesus intercedes for Peter. Jesus prays FOR SINNERS! Like He does on the cross: “Father forgive them …” (Lk 23:34; cf. Is 53:12). The Lord’s praying is stronger than Satan. Peter’s downfall of denial does not prove to be his final downfall. Jesus repents him. Remember? “And when you have turned again …” (Lk 22:32) Peter’s confidence will be only in Jesus and His forgiveness so that he can “strengthen” his “brothers,” (Lk 22:32).
If there was ever a sinner who needed God’s forgiveness, who would that be? Peter. You too. That’s precisely what Jesus gives. He bore all your sin. His death on the cross is THE sin offering that makes good / makes restitution for the all the wrong you have done … to God and to others. You are forgiven. You’re covered in Jesus’ blood. He has you in His wounds.
In the Name of Jesus.
”The Creed properly follows, which sets forth all that we must expect and receive from God; in short, it teaches us to know him perfectly,” (Formula of Concord, Large Catechism II.2 in Robert Kolb and Timothy J. Wengert, eds., The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church [Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2000], 431).