Sermon on John 13:36-38
Midweek Lent 2
Jesus Came to Seek the Lost . . . A Misguided Disciple
Text: John 13:36-38
What do you think the look was like? Peter had blurted out for the third time, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking this third denial, the rooster crowed. The apostle Luke tells us, “Then the Lord turned and looked straight at Peter.” What do you think that look was like? Having the Son of God look him in the eye and peer into his soul to see his sin was certainly affective. “Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly.”
How could this happen?
Rewind a few hours. It was Thursday evening. The Lord was with the twelve in an upper room. After Jesus humbly stooped to wash his disciples’ feet, they celebrated the Passover meal one last time together. During it the Lord instituted a special new meal, his own supper, for them to do in remembrance of him. Following, Jesus was giving final instructions and words of comfort to his disciples. During that speech he said, “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.”
We pick up with the lesson for this evening: “’Simon Peter asked him, ‘Lord, where are you going?’ Jesus replied, ‘Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.’ Peter asked, ‘Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.’”
This portion of Scripture typifies Peter. Quick with emotions. Quick to react. Quick to speak. All the while he doesn’t really know what he is saying or doing. Consider the past evidence: When Jesus called Peter from his boat he allowed him to make a miraculous catch of fish. Peter was so afraid he fell at Jesus feet and told him to go away. But Jesus comforted him and told him that from then on he would be a fisher of men. Later, when Jesus is walking on water and Peter boldly asked if he could come out and join him. He actually did walk on the water, but when he looked down he became afraid and started to sink. Jesus famously replied, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” On a different occasion Jesus asked his disciples who he was and Peter blurted out in faith, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Yet immediately after that he rebuked Jesus for teaching about his death, to which the Lord replied, “Get behind me Satan.”
A week later was the event we focused on in worship two weeks ago, Jesus’ transfiguration. Peter was atop the mountain with James and John and saw the glory of the Lord—a marvelous boost of faith. Yet he foolishly asked the Lord if they could put up tents and stay on that mountain with Moses and Elijah.
If Peter were a rollercoaster, every rider would surely be sick! Up and down. Up and down. Up and down. In one moment he was showing flashes of spiritual brilliance, the next he was being called Satan. Think about the extremes—he walked on water and saw the glory of the Lord, yet he also doubted Jesus’ power and tried to prevent his death (several times). Surely he learned his lesson, especially after the last incident—being with Jesus on the mount of transfiguration.
Now its Maundy Thursday and Jesus is teaching about his death once more. Where Jesus was going, no one could follow. “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Giving him the benefit of the doubt, perhaps Peter was at least showing Jesus how much he loved him. He cared so much for the Lord that he didn’t want to leave his side. He would even give up his life for Jesus!
But was he really so dense? Hadn’t he been listening to anything Jesus had been teaching over the last three years? Didn’t he remember how he was rebuked the last several times he tried to stop Jesus from dying? Didn’t he understand yet that Jesus needed to die? Did he really think that he should die for Jesus instead of Jesus dying for him? Yes, he was so dense. He was a misguided disciple of very weak faith. His faith was so weak that his claim of being willing to die for the Lord was only hype and lip service. Jesus knew he wouldn’t really do that: “Then Jesus answered, ‘Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!’”
If you were Peter, wouldn’t you have been offended by that claim by Jesus? Wouldn’t you have been hurt? “No, Lord, I would never do that.” If you were Peter, wouldn’t you have been on extra guard and wouldn’t you have made extra sure that you were careful about what you said and that you wouldn’t come within a hundred miles of a rooster?
Fast-forward several hours to the early hours of Friday morning. “‘Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!’ Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him . . . And he went outside and wept bitterly.” What do you think that look was like? Oh, Peter. How could this have happened? Peter was certainly a misguided disciple. How could this happen? I know how it could happen because I know Peter. I understand Peter. I am Peter. If ever there was a person in Scripture that we could identify with, wouldn’t it be Peter?
Sometimes we are on such spiritual highs. We get so excited and so enthusiastic about our faith. I’ve seen it in all of you. I’ve seen tears of joy in your eyes as you listen to sermons or sing hymns. I’ve seen beaming smiles as you have heard the good news of the gospel or learned more about a difficult teaching in Scripture. I’ve seen you faithfully serve at our outreach events and happily help set up or tear down for church.
But I’ve also seen tears of sadness in your eyes. I’ve heard you express doubts and worries. I’ve heard you ask tough questions searching for meaning. I know that you struggle with problems and worries in every day life. I know that you battle hard against your sinful nature.
I’m the exact same way. Last Sunday I almost leapt out of bed because I was so pumped for worship that day. Some days I get so excited to have some free moments for extra study in the Word of God. Some days I can’t wait to go out and make visits with our church and school prospects. But on other Sundays I am less prepared, more distracted, and less enthusiastic. Some days I don’t even want to think about preparing for another Bible class or another sermon. Some days I would rather sit and design our website than go out and make calls on people.
We know Peter all too well because we are just like Peter. Our spiritual lives go up and down, up and down, up and down. In one moment our faith is pulsating like a pounding drum. In the next moment we aren’t even sure if we have faith any more. In the one moment we have faith that could move mountains, in the next moment we do something so horrible that Jesus might say, “Get behind me Satan!”
God even warns us in Scripture as he warned Peter. He tells us about the sins of this world. He tells us about the temptations we will be faced with. He tells us what to do and what not to do. He informs us that life will be difficult and that there will be troubles. He warns us to watch for the devil prowling around like a roaring lion. Yet we still struggle. We still falter. We still fail—and miserably at that. If Jesus looked straight at you, what would that look be like?
Yes, we understand Peter the misguided disciple. All the same emotions and feelings, all the same triumphs and failures, all the same highs and lows—we know Peter. We understand Peter. We are Peter. We are misguided disciples, too.
But even as Peter ran out of the courtyard and wept bitterly over his sin, Jesus’ attention was drawn elsewhere. In fact, Jesus wasn’t able to give any more looks after the one he gave Peter because he was then blindfolded. He was blindfolded while the guards hit him and taunted him saying, “Prophesy! Who hit you?” Then he was led off to Pontius Pilate. There more insults were hurled. There more lies were told. There he was beaten again. There the innocent was sentenced to death.
They led him away, forcing him to carry his own cross to the place of his death called Golgotha. There on Calvary’s hill Jesus was lifted up for all to see. Then, Jesus spoke these words from the cross first: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Jesus spoke it on behalf of his enemies who unknowingly crucified the Son of God. But surely those words also were meant for Peter. Surely those words were also meant for us. For Peter, and we, drove home those nails with our own sins, too. Peter and you and I put Jesus on that cross every bit as much as the Jews and Romans did. And we need Jesus forgiveness every bit as much as the Jews and the Romans did.
But that’s why Jesus was there—for forgiveness. Jesus was on that cross to pay for Peter’s doubt when walking on the water. Jesus was on that cross to pay for Peter’s failure to understand Jesus’ purpose and for his attempts to prevent Jesus’ death. Jesus was on that cross to pay for Peter’s three denials.
He was there for us, too. Jesus was on that cross to pay for our doubt. Jesus was on that cross to pay for our failures, for our hot-headed, quick-to-reaction moments like those of Peter. Jesus was on that cross to pay for our smallest of sins and to pay for our biggest of sins.
Peter doesn’t only typify what a misguided disciple really is like, but Peter also typifies whom Jesus came to save. Jesus Came to Seek the Lost. That includes misguided disciples like Peter, like you, and like me. Even Peter was forgiven. Even we were forgiven. Jesus Came to Seek the Lost. Jesus saved the lost. Jesus saved Peter. Jesus saved us.