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“The Characters of Lent: Peter”
Luke 22:54-62

Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Ash Wednesday—February 25, 2009

Just a few months before, Jesus had asked his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” and Peter had replied with a firm confession of faith, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  But now Peter denies three times even knowing who Jesus is. 

Matthew reports that at the Last Supper just a few hours earlier, “Jesus told them, ‘This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.” But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.’  Peter replied, ‘Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.’  ‘I tell you the truth,’ Jesus answered, ‘this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.’  But Peter declared, ‘Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you.’ And all the other disciples said the same.”

But, just a few verses later Matthew reports that after Jesus was arrested, “Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.”  Mark reports that Peter even, “Began to call down curses on himself, and he swore to them, ‘I don’t know this man you are talking about.’”

Why did Peter deny him, and all the disciples desert him and flee?  Because they were afraid.  They were afraid of opposition, ridicule, and other unpleasant consequences for being followers of Jesus Christ.

Paul says in 2nd Timothy, “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”  Like Peter and the other disciples, we too are guilty of denying and deserting Jesus.  Denying and deserting him because we are afraid of opposition, ridicule, and other unpleasant consequences for being followers of Jesus Christ.

What was the difference between Judas and Peter?  Judas’ sin of betrayal was really no worse than Peter’s sin of denial.  Judas too could have been forgiven.  As the Apostle John writes, “The blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from every sin.” 

We see in Judas and Peter the difference between remorse and repentance.  Remorse is being sorry for something you have done.  Judas had remorse, so great that he “went out and hanged himself.”

Repentance is a step beyond remorse.  God does not want only remorse.  He does not want you to hopelessly despair over your sins like Judas.  As Joel says, “Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.”

That is repentance.  Returning to the Lord and trusting in his grace, mercy, and steadfast love.  Peter had remorse as he “went outside and wept bitterly.”  But, Peter went beyond remorse to repentance, turning to the Lord in faith and trusting in his forgiveness.

Like Peter, repent of your sins, turn to Jesus for forgiveness, and then live boldly for Jesus.  Years Peter later wrote in his First Epistle: “If you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. . .  He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”

That is the lesson of the Lenten story of Peter.  Amen.

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