Mar 24, 2016 – Maundy Thurs “You, Me & Pete”
In the gospel lesson from Mark, you have to love Peter for his good intentions. Peter professes his intention to remain faithful to Jesus no matter what. That may sound familiar to many of us. How many times have I said, ‘I’ll never do this or that’ again with every intention of remaining faithful I can’t begin to count. But like me, Peter’s intention was not enough to prevent him from betraying his Lord, our savior Jesus Christ. It’s not our intentions or choices that we trust in. It’s the power of God alone that establishes our certain hope.
It’s the power of God alone that raised Jesus our shepherd after being killed on the cross that gives us the surety of hope eternal. We become His sheep by the shed blood of the Shepherd and under His care we’ll never be scattered again. We will never again be scattered or lost and not because of our good intentions like Peter, but because of the power of God in raising up the Good Shepherd after His having been struck down.
Jesus quotes, Zechariah, when He says, “for it is written… strike the shepherd and the sheep will scatter.” Since this is true, perhaps we should consider whether the opposite may also be true. Put it this way, ‘raise up the shepherd and the sheep will be drawn to Him’.
We have been drawn, by God’s Holy Spirit, to the Risen Shepherd. After Jesus, the good shepherd was struck down, as Zechariah prophesied, all the sheep, including dear Peter, did in fact scatter. That striking down of the Shepherd is what we’re remembering this Holy Week. Lent, the time of preparation, is now behind us. We have now moved into the time of the Lord’s passion, death and time in the grave. The Shepherd is in the process of being struck down and tomorrow night the deed will be done. We remember it and we celebrate it in a solemn fashion. The price for our restoration to God is to be paid on the cross that brings down the shepherd.
And we hear in Peter’s words an echo of the truth of what Jesus actually does for us in paying for our reconciliation to God. Peter says in 31, “if I must die with you, I will never deny you!” There is a truth about the Lord’s work in those words. On this night we celebrate Jesus establishing Holy Communion and in His doing that He makes promises to us; He promises to truly be in the bread and wine. But He also promises that He’s establishing a new covenant in His blood. His blood, the red mark of our salvation is shed in His death, in His being struck down. And there is the echo of Peter’s words; but it’s Jesus, not Peter, who does have to die so that we are never disowned.
Jesus’ promises are what we take into ourselves as we take Holy Communion. Our souls are feeding on the promise of Christ to never disown us, as He said in Matthew 10:32, “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven.” In His body and blood at communion, we acknowledge before the world that He strengthens the faith He’s given us by grace alone. And that strength comes from His promise never to disown us before the Father in heaven.
Through the words of Peter then, we’re given insight into two things. First, that we do fail, just as he did when he in truth disowned Christ, and so we’re in the same state as Peter and we too need rescuing from our failure of faith. But that second insight is that Jesus dies so that we will never be disowned. In His death, our failure is covered because Jesus does keep His word, His promise. That is mercy, that is comfort for us. That promise is what we were fed as we took communion.
Jesus has given His body and blood as the covenant, as the guarantee of our place before our heavenly Father’s throne. Our falseness and failures, like Peter’s false promise, is a mirror that shows us all the broken promises that we’ve left in our path behind us. Our hope for the future is not based on that path of broken promises in our past, but rather on the path to the cross that Jesus walked. His path to Calvary is the path that leads to our brokenness being healed and our falseness being traded for His truth. That is our one and only, true and certain hope.
One other thing to catch about Peter’s words here; they miss what Jesus has just said. Yes, Jesus said that He would be struck down. The good shepherd will be murdered and the sheep will scatter. But then Jesus says in verse 28 that ‘when I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee’. Now yes we’re not in the midst of that conversation between Peter and Jesus, and we all know that in a conversation details can be missed. Also we have the advantage of this being written down and having repeatedly read this. But this is a big detail. Jesus is saying that He will die and that He will be raised up and that He will go before them and meet them in Galilee, after He has died!! Peter, God love him, seems to miss that point, just as we would’ve and he’s quick to reject Jesus going to death to be struck down.
Granted, his denial comes out of loyalty and love for Jesus, but he denies that Jesus should die nonetheless. When we come to communion, we’re staking our claim only on Jesus’ death. We proclaim His death by our taking of communion. Jesus has said that we partake of the covenant in His body and blood. The covenant is a will; it’s a testimony of death. So, though we understand Peter’s denial and have shared in it, we know that later Peter also will proclaim the death of Jesus as the source of his own redemption and the redemption of the whole world.
Tonight in Holy Communion, we’ve joined Peter in this proclamation; the proclamation of Jesus’ death and that our hope is in His work on the cross. In the end, that is all we have. We will all come to the end of life one day and we will face that day as the gathered sheep of the Shepherd who died for us. Remember that the words of Peter’s echo the truth of Christ’s promise to us. Though others deny you I will not. Jesus, our Good Shepherd will not deny us. This promise is what we feed on when we partake of communion. Our certain hope on the day of our death is that Jesus has promised not to deny us. We truly cling for dear life to Christ and His promise of life eternal with Him paid by Him on the cross and guaranteed to us by His resurrection! In His name, amen.
Sermon #818 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO
Holy Gospel Mark 14:27-31
27 And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ 28 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 29 Peter said to him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” 30 And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” 31 But he said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same.
Old Testament Reading Exodus 12:1-14, selected
12 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt… 3 Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. 4 If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people there are… 5 The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. 6 Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. 7 Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. 8 That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast… 11 This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover.
12 “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. 13 The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.
14 “This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord—a lasting ordinance.
Second Reading 1 Corinthians 11:23-26
23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.