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Author:Rev. Stephen 't Hart
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Baldivis
 Baldivis, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/baldivis/
 
Title:Confess Christ Crucified
Text:Luke 22:54-62 (View)
Occasion:Easter (Good Friday)
Topic:Faith Tested
 
Preached:2012-04-06
Added:2012-05-08
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Songs taken from 1984 Book of Praise.

Hymn 22

Psalm 22:1,8

Hymn 21:1,2,4

Psalm 42:5,7

Psalm 25:8,10

 

Read:  Luke 22:24-62

Text:  Luke 22:54-62

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Brothers and Sisters in our Lord Jesus Christ.

The most well known symbol of Christianity is the symbol of the cross.  The cross is fixed to churches, found in cemeteries and hung around necks.  But has it ever struck you how surprising, strange even, it is that the cross has become the universal symbol of the Christian religion? 

  In the Roman Empire two thousand years ago, the cross was the sign of death.  And not just death but a painful, shameful death.  The idea that one could be saved through one dying on a cross, therefore, was foolishness to the Greeks, and a stumbling block, and offence to the Jews.  Even more, the very idea that one could be saved through one who died on a cross was considered an outrageous scandal.

  But it is not only the Jews and Greeks of 2000 years ago who struggled with the message of being saved through One who died on the cross:  this is something we all need to learn and then humbly accept and confess.  To understand how we are to be saved, we have to learn about Christ crucified.  Even more to the point, we have to know why Christ had to be crucified and why He had to die alone, forsaken by God and man.  It is only then that we will know the true state of our spiritual decay and the joy of Easter can truly renew our lives.

  The apostle Peter had to learn as well.  For while Peter was ready to confess Christ, he had to learn what it meant to confess Christ crucified.  He had to learn how wretched his condition was and so be ready to receive new life in the painful sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

 

I preach to you the Word of God under the following theme:

 

Confess Christ crucified.

  1. Peter’s problem.
  2. Peter’s plunge.
  3. Peter’s penitence.

 

1. Peter’s problem.

Of all the disciples, Simon Peter is the one many of us love the most.  I think he appeals to us because he was so very normal.  His life revolved around fishing, boats, his wife and his mother-in-law.  Just an ordinary working class man.  Not much money.  No formal education to speak of.  He could be the man sitting next to you in the pew.  He could be you.

  One of the most striking things about Simon was his relationship with the Lord.  Full of enthusiasm, he was devoted to the Lord Jesus, 100% committed to Him and prepared to defend Him to the end.

  It was Peter who had said in Matthew 16:16,  "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."  And when many left the Lord, it was Peter who said in John 6, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God."

  But Peter, along with the other disciples, had a problem.  He could not accept that the Christ should suffer and die.  He could not understand why this would have to happen.  “Never, Lord!  This shall never happen to you!”  Peter was not going to permit it to happen.  And he was going to stand by Jesus and defend Him come what may.  If there was to be a fight, Peter would be there.  He would help his Lord and assist Him in every way.

 

But things were not working out as Peter had expected.  King Jesus, who had entered Jerusalem on a donkey was not acting like a king at all!  While the disciples kept arguing as to who was to be the most important, Jesus got on His knees with a dish of water and washed their feet!  Then He gave them a meal of bread and wine which He called His body and blood, broken and poured out for them.  And then he said to Peter what must have been the most hurtful thing imaginable:  "Simon, Simon!  Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren."  (Luke 22:31,32).

  “Lord,” says Peter, “What are you implying?  I’m ready to go with you both to prison and to death!”  But Jesus cuts in and tells him,  "I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know me."  (Luke 22:34)

 

It is plain horrible!  What is going on?  For Peter this was not a question of him losing all faith in Christ.  For Peter it appeared as if the Lord has suddenly lost all faith in him!  Peter the Rock who would even walk on water to be close to his Lord.  Peter, who had believed with all his heart that Jesus was the Christ and that He would usher in the Kingdom of Heaven.  And Jesus is saying, “It is not just that you can’t go with me, Peter.  You are going to reject me three times before tomorrow morning!”

  That is something Peter can not accept.  Whatever his weaknesses, he is convinced of His love and dedication for Christ, that he will continue to confess his faith in Christ no matter what.

 

With a heavy heart, Peter walks with Jesus to the Mount of Olives.  What is happening to Jesus?   He appears to be so pre-occupied, so sad, one might even say traumatized.  In the garden, full of sorrow, our Lord prays.  And even though the night was cold, Christ was in so much distress and agony that his sweat was like drops of blood.

  Simon Peter, along with James and John were also deeply troubled.  What was happening to Jesus?  They had never seen Him like this before.  He was being so fatalistic, so sure that He was going to die.  How could this be?  What had become of the Jesus who had entered Jerusalem on a donkey just a few days before?  And He was not asking them to help Him at all so that they might raise an army and fight with whoever was opposing Him.  In spite of His agony it was as if Jesus was ready to go like a lamb to the slaughter house.  And exhausted by their sorrow and distress, Peter and the others actually fell asleep.

 

Peter fell asleep.  That should have been a wake-up call for Peter, telling him that he had no reason to believe that he was able and ready to stand by Jesus whatever might come.  But Peter, in spite of what had happened that night, was not ready to give up yet. 

  While Jesus is still talking, shadowy figures suddenly break through the darkness.  A crowd of 200 men come up, with Judas Iscariot in the lead.  They come with swords and clubs.  They have come to take away the Lord! 

  Here is Peter’s moment!  Now is His chance to prove once and for all that He is fully committed to Christ, that he will standby and assist Him, fighting with Him to the bitter end.  Peter the fisherman takes hold of the sword they had taken, lifts it up and takes a swipe at the closest man.  The blade is deflected and cuts off the earlobe of Malchus, the servant of the high priest.  Let no one call Peter a coward!  He will not deny the one he loved!  Peter will stay by Christ’s side, fighting all the way until the Kingdom is established!

 

And then comes third knockout, the third rebuke.  “No more of this, Peter!  Put your sword away!”  Here was Peter.  In the face of death, ready to fight with odds of 200 to 1, and Jesus says, “No.  I’m ready to go.  Let them take me.”  I can fully understand it if Peter was confused, hurt and upset.  Who exactly is this Christ that Peter is ready to defend?  It appears as if the Lord has given Himself up!  Legions of angels can help Him.  Many Jews too would be ready to join the fight.  But Jesus calmly gives Himself up, allows Himself to be tied up and led away.  It’s all over!  The dreams, the hopes, the aspirations are gone in the blink of an eyelid.

  Why was this happening to Jesus?  Why has He suddenly given up, even before the fight has begun?  Come on Jesus, let us join you and fight for you to save you!  Think of the Psalms, Jesus!  Psalm 68:21 – “Surely God will crush the heads of his enemies, the hairy crowns of those who go on in their sins.”  Psalm 89 – “I have found David my servant. ... No wicked man will oppress him. 23 I will crush his foes before him and strike down his adversaries.”

   Peter may not be right, but we can surely sympathize with his original belief that Christ would never be betrayed into the hands of His enemies.  Peter is ready to go to prison, even to die for Christ the King.  Anything to save Jesus from being crucified on a tree.  But he was not yet ready to confess, let alone die for, Christ crucified.  He does not see the need.  He did not understand that the Christ would have to be forsaken by God and man, to suffer and to die.

  “Simon, Simon.  Satan will sift you like wheat. ...”

  “Let him do it!” says Simon Peter.  “I am ready to stand up to defend my Lord.  I am ready to die for Him.  I am ready to stand by and partner with Him in whatever He needs to do.  I am going to earn my place as Christ’s right hand man in His Kingdom!”

 

And that is Peter’s problem.  He did not just have a misunderstanding of who the Christ was.  Peter misunderstood who he was.  Jesus had to go and suffer and die alone because Simon Peter could not do it for Him or even with Him.  Simon Peter has to learn that his sin and our sin was so great that only Christ, and Christ alone could be crucified to redeem us and give us a place in His Kingdom.

  The Cross, and Christ going it alone is where it hits home for Peter and for us.  We have to understand Good Friday before we can celebrate Easter Sunday.  We have to confess that we really can not do anything to help earn a place in God’s Kingdom.  Jesus had to die to take away my sins.  And He had to do it alone.

 

2. Peter’s Plunge.

The Garden of Gethsemane experience was plain awful for Peter.  And in the middle of the confusion, he along with the other disciples ran away in fear.  But then he turns around. 

  Peter is upset and hurting.  And not just because of that traitor Judas and the others who arrested his Lord.  Peter feels that he has been rejected by Christ!  First there was that “unkind” prediction that he would deny Christ.  Then that rebuke when he took hold of that sword that he thought Jesus Himself had instructed him to take and use. 

  But Peter will not give up yet.  He follows Jesus from a distance, keen to see what will happen.  Who knows?  Perhaps the impossible will happen after all.  Or perhaps he will still have a chance do one last heroic deed for his Lord and master.  And so with a bit of help from the disciple John, Peter manages to get right into the courtyard of the High priest.  Peter has entered the devil’s lair in what appears to be one last effort to stand by and defend the Lord.

 

Meanwhile Jesus was inside, first of all in the house of Annas the high priest.  While men came forward to slander Him, others ridiculed, laughed at Him and spat at Him.  Jesus the King is tortured and mocked.  He is forsaken, despised and rejected.

  What must have been going on in Peter’s head at that time?  One can only guess.  The events of that night had been so disturbing that Peter’s entire world is turned on its ear.  Who was this Jesus of Nazareth?  All the hopes, all the plans, all the talk about the Kingdom, it’s all gone.  As one blow on Jesus’ body struck upon the other, as He is spat upon and abused, all the hopes, all the dreams, all the plans are fading one by one.

 

The long night draws on.  Peter is tired and confused.  The predawn chill penetrates every part of his weary body.  But there is a fire that some soldiers have kindled in the middle of the courtyard.  Peter creeps closer, anxious for any warmth that would quiet his shivering body, yet fearful lest the light of the fire would betray him to the group of soldiers who had just arrested Jesus.  After all, Peter too must be a wanted man – using an illegal sword to resist arrest.

 

And then it happens.  At a time when his defenses were down, from a quarter he least expected it, the challenge is given.  A woman walks towards the fire.  A common servant girl.  She turns her face in the direction of Simon Peter, the Galilean who was warming himself by the fire.  “This man was with him,” she said.

  The murmuring stops and all eyes turn in interest to Simon who is sitting there with them.  “No I’m not.  Leave me alone, woman.  I don’t know him.”  Peter denied it.  He said he had nothing to do with this Jesus who was inside getting beaten to a pulp.

  Perhaps Peter thought he’d get off the hook.  But it did not work that way.  The talking did not die down.  Someone else saw him and said, “You are also one of them!” 

  “No!”  says Peter.  “I’m not!  Leave me alone.”

  Things start to get a little hot around that fire, so Peter gets up and wanders off for an hour or so.  And then the challenge comes again.  Only stronger.  “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean!”

  “Man,” says Peter, “I don’t know what you’re talking about!”  Peter is saying, “I don’t know the man.  He has nothing to do with me and I have nothing to do with him.  It’s all over.  It’s finished.”  And from the other gospels we can learn that Peter went so far as to curse and swear that he had no part in this Jesus who was being crucified.  It was no longer a small matter between Simon and a slave girl.  The name of Almighty God was called upon, and Simon Peter declared that He did not belong to Christ. 

 

“Simon, Simon.  Satan has asked to sift you as wheat.  He hopes you will be chaff that the wind blows away.  He is out to get you, Simon!” 

  It was only a matter of hours ago that Simon Peter had sat at table with Jesus and had celebrated the first Lord’s Supper ever.  This is my body.  Take, eat.” Jesus said.  “This blood is the new covenant in my blood.  Drink of it.”  Peter also took and ate and drank.  Now he is saying, “that man who is being abused in there, I don’t know him.  I have no part in him.  His future is of no concern to me.  All this commotion about that man from Nazareth leaves me cold.”

 

Peter has plunged.  The rock has smashed, crumbled to dust.  His hopes of getting a good place in the Kingdom – or of the Kingdom even becoming a reality, are over.  Even his proud boast of a few hours before that he would never deny the Christ is forgotten.  He has publicly stated, under oath, that he has no connection to the Christ.  Peter gives up because he believes that Jesus has given up.  “What about the Kingdom?”  Peter had screamed to himself.  But there was Jesus, subjecting Himself to be bound and led away.  It was as if something snapped deep down inside Peter.  The culmination of a long series of confusing disappointments for Peter that evening.  Indeed, when Jesus hung on that cross and died, nothing seemed more certain than that it had all been a lie.

  The point is that Peter was more than ready to confess Christ.  However he was not ready to confess Christ crucified!  He did not understand what Christ was doing, because he did not understand himself, his own sinful nature.

 

When we read about Peter denying Christ, it makes us think about ourselves, how we might deny the Lord.  In what we do or do not say.  In how we live in this world.  In how we fail to keep the promises we made when we joined this church.  In our embarrassed grunt when someone asked us about our faith.  All that is well and good.  Peter’s denial of Christ is a wake-up call for all of us.  But it must also send us further, to the root of all these denials.  It must drive us to question who the Christ is –  and who we are.

  Nothing is more devastating, nothing crushes our human spirits more than the full realization that we can do nothing of ourselves to earn a place in Christ’s Kingdom.  Peter’s denial of Christ calls us to look at the crucifixion with new eyes.  We need to understand the implications of Christ dying alone, of the inability, even the unwillingness of even Peter to support Him in any way.  We need to talk about that, even though it will make us uncomfortable.

 

While Peter was busy swearing an oath that he did not know Jesus, our Lord Jesus was also being challenged.  “Prophesy:  are you the Christ?  Swear to us!”  And Jesus response was, “You have said that I Am.”  In contrast to Peter, Jesus does not flinch from His testimony.

  Peter plunged.  But the good news is that while we were yet enemies, Christ died for us.  Even as His own disciples, even Peter, deserted Him and fled, failing to save Him, our Lord went on to the Cross to save us.

 

3. Peter’s Penitence.

Jesus had been mocked, beaten and spat upon.  Then they took Him and led Him from the house of Annas across the courtyard to the house of Caiaphas the High Priest.

  But as Jesus is dragged along, Peter and those around the fire hardly see Him.  All eyes are fixed on Peter.  Another had just said emphatically stated, “Surely you were with him, because you come from Galilee!” 

  “Man, I do not know what you are talking about!  There is no way that I have anything to do with that man.  I do not know Him.  I do not belong to Him.”

  But before the words are out of Peter’s mouth, two things begin to happen.  A rooster crows and Jesus stops, turns around and looks directly at Simon Peter.

  Jesus turns around to look.  A face that is contused, black and blue from the blows it has received, with spittle still dripping from it, turns to look at Simon Peter.  And that one look shocks Simon to the very core.  As blinding tears coursed down his cheeks, Simon Peter slipped through the gate of the palace courtyard and he ran.  Finding a place where he could hide, he gave himself up to the bitter, scalding tears of shame, humiliation, defeat, and despair.  Peter had come to the end of himself.  His life had turned to ashes.  He was totally empty.  He was a failure, a sinner – equal in guilt and shame with Judas Iscariot.  And Jesus had turned and looked at him.  Jesus knew. 

  Peter was crushed.  The plunge has left the rock shattered.  Perhaps it would have been easier if Jesus had berated him.  But now Peter can only run outside and weep.  Even if God would forgive Peter, can he forgive himself?  Peter’s strong and boastful old nature has received a mortal wound.

 

But now Peter was where God wanted him to be.  Outside, sobbing because of his sin.  Even in this darkest hour of Peter’s life, and in the life of all mankind, the light of the Gospel was shining.  The darkness had not overcome it.  That rooster’s crow was a wake-up call to tell us that even now, God was in control.  Somehow God would even use what had happened to Simon Peter for his benefit.  Peter does not understand yet.  But he will.  Jesus had prayed that Peter’s faith might not fail, and the Lord was honoring that prayer.  The crowing of that rooster caused Peter to open his eyes and understand at last just how helpless he was without God.  How he needed a Saviour ... on a cross!

 

Jesus turned to look at Peter.  But it was not a look of condemnation.  Jesus turned.  He looked at Peter.  And then He turned away again, and went resolutely onward to the cross.  It is because Peter can not save the Christ that Jesus is ready to be crucified in order to save Peter.

 

To confess Christ crucified is to confess that we need such a Christ.  A Christ who alone went to Calvary’s tree to save you and me.  I know it is obvious, but it is worth repeating.  We can not celebrate Easter Sunday without Good Friday.  We have to keep the words sin and total depravity in our church language, even if it makes us uncomfortable.  We have to remember that it was necessary for the Saviour to be forsaken by all so that He we would never more be forsaken by Him!

  And that, of course, is what makes Good Friday good.  Because Christ went on to die, Peter was later restored.  He went on to confess Christ crucified.  His weeping was turned into joy.  And the story of Peter also gives hope to you and me.  Because of what Jesus Christ did, all our weeping will be turned into joy.  We can look forward to being with Christ forever.  We look forward to entering a place where there is no sin. 

  Simon will still sit at the Lord’s table.  He will receive a throne.  And we too shall reign with him and our crucified Christ forever and ever!  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2012, Rev. Stephen 't Hart

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