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“Questions at the Cross: Are You Not One of His Disciples?
John 18:25


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Lent Service IV—March 6, 2013

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

During Lent this year, for both our special evening and Sunday morning services, we are considering “Questions at the Cross,” questions asked by Jesus and others during the first Holy Week.  The entire sermon series is listed on the back of this evening’s bulletin.  We continue with a question Peter is asked in this evening’s Gospel Reading:

The servant girl at the door said to Peter, ‘Are you not one of this man’s disciples?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ Now the servants and officers had made a charcoal fire, because it was cold, and they were standing and warming themselves. Peter also was with them . . . so they said to him, ‘Are you not one of his disciples?’ He denied it and said, ‘I am not.” One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, ‘Did I not see you in the garden with him?’ Peter again denied it, and at once a rooster crowed.”

Tonight’s “Question at the Cross”: “Are You Not One of His Disciples?”

A few months before, Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?”  At that time Peter replied with a firm confession of faith, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  And just a few hours earlier, at the Last Supper, Peter emphatically declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you.”  And just moments before in the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter had drawn a sword to fight for his Master.  But now, as Jesus is being unjustly accused and condemned inside the high priest’s palace, Peter is in the courtyard outside, denying three times even knowing who Jesus is.  Matthew reports, “He began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, ‘I do not know the man!’”

Peter was not the only one who abandoned Jesus that night.  Matthew tells us that after Jesus was arrested, “Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.”  Why?  Why did Peter deny him, and all the disciples desert him and flee?  We call it peer pressure.  They were afraid, afraid of opposition, ridicule, and other unpleasant consequences for being followers of Jesus Christ.

Perhaps Peter was remembering his sorry performance that night when he later wrote in his First Epistle, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour.  Resist him, standing firm in the faith.”  Just like Peter, Satan is constantly testing your faith, your devotion, your loyalty to Jesus.  The world is constantly asking you, in so many different ways, that same question asked of Peter: “Are you not one of his disciples?”

Like Peter and the other disciples, we also are guilty of denying and deserting Jesus, both with our words and our actions.  Denying and deserting him because of opposition, ridicule, and other unpleasant consequences for being followers of Jesus Christ.  As Paul tells Timothy, “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”  And so we deny and desert him because of peer pressure.

Peter went outside and wept bitterly.  Like Peter, repent of your sins, turn to Jesus for forgiveness, and then live your life boldly for Jesus.  Years later, Peter wrote: “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 . . .  For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do . . .  They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. . .  Live such good lives among the heathen that, though they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good works and glorify God.”

Just like Peter, Satan is constantly testing your faith, your devotion, your loyalty to Jesus.  The world is constantly asking you, in so many different ways, the same question asked of Peter: “Are you not one of his disciples?”

Testifying to your Savior with words is important, when you are presented with an opportunity to do so.  When you have the opportunity to testify for Jesus with words, just remember what’s totally unique about the Christian faith: You are certain you will go to heaven, not because you earned it, but because Jesus earned it for you.  Forgiveness and eternal life is a free gift of God.  And Jesus promises: “Do not worry about what to say or how to say it.  At that time you will be given what to say. . .  for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”

Testifying to your Savior with words is important, but more often you have the opportunity to testify by what you do, by the way you act and react toward the world.  The old adages say, “Actions speak louder than words,” and “A picture worth a thousand words.”  There’s a lot of truth in those adages.  That’s why the Lord didn’t just tell us he loves us, he took action, sending his only-begotten Son into the world, to save the world through him.  “Actions speak louder than words.”  That’s why the Lord instituted the Sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion, communicating to us in these actions a picture of salvation.

“A picture worth a thousand words.”  So ask yourself, “What kind of picture of the Christian faith am I presenting in my life?  Am I reflecting Jesus Christ in my life?  His love and forgiveness?  His patience and kindness?  His holiness and purity?”  Paul says in Philippians, “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”  Jesus put it this way: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

This week, like Peter, you will given many opportunities to either deny or affirm your faith, by what you say and by what you do, the way you act and react toward the world.  Remember, it is the world’s way of asking you the same question asked of Peter: “Are you not one of his disciples?”  The world is watching, and listening, and waiting for your answer.

Amen.

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