Feb 10, 2016 – Ash Wednesday
Tonight as we begin our Lenten season with the imposition of ashes, we hear again those ancient words, from dust you came and to dust you shall return. We hear those words to remind us that we are the created and not the Creator. That is we are made, we are designed, we are derived life, not inherent life. We have life only as God sees fit to give it to us.
And the Lenten season reminds us that we have squandered that gift of life in our own selfishness and sinfulness. We’ve taken the gift of life and squeezed out of it all that we could for ourselves with no thought to the kindness, and magnificent generosity of our Creator to grant us this life.
All this is to say, that Lent is our season to ponder and consider our place, and to be reminded that we are in desperate need. That we have no good that dwells in us on our own and that the only good we do have is only what the grace of God alone grants to us. We are indeed made of dust and to dust we shall return. But that is not the end of our story. Because of the surpassing grace of our great creator God, in His mercy and underserved kindness toward us, through Jesus Christ, He has made provision for our sinful selves and granted us hope; hope through the death and resurrection of His only son Jesus Christ.
That is the ultimate reflection of shadow and light and shadow and light is the theme we hold onto during this Lenten journey. Though the shadow of sin and death is ever with us, so also is the light of the gospel in Jesus Christ. And as we travel this Lenten path of shadow and light this year, we’ll do so by looking at various pairs of people in scripture that help us to see this truth.
Tonight it’s 2 disciples that provide us with our view of shadow and light. We look at Judas and Peter; both followers of Jesus. These men travelled with our Lord since He was baptized in the Jordan river and returned from 40 days of wandering and temptation in the wilderness. These 2 men, along with the other disciples and the, up to 70 or so others, that formed the core group around Jesus during His earthly ministry, these particular 2 have known and seen all that Jesus taught and did. They had the ‘best seats in the house’ for the life of Jesus on earth. How we envy them in many ways. And yet today it’s these two, Judas and Peter, that we must step back from and observe the passage of shadow and light that comes across both their lives.
Yes it would be easy to say ‘go and be like Peter and not like Judas’ and we might think that’s enough. But that won’t do unless we allow ourselves to first see these 2 men as perhaps Jesus saw them. In seeing them from His perspective, as much as is humanly possible from our texts and from our distance, we may learn some things about ourselves.
In the reading today both went away from Jesus – one, Peter, went weeping and miserable. And yet he did not feel that he could take matters into his own hands. While the other, also went out full of remorse and sadness, but – rather than weep Judas felt that he must take control. That he alone knew best and so… he hanged himself. He cut himself off from any further hope.
While Peter also felt remorse, he did not try to ‘fix things’ on his own. Having done a bit of reading on these 2 – Peter it almost might seem that the hot-headed, impulsive and talkative Peter might be the one to take his own life in a fit of self-hatred and loathing. While the studious and worldly-wise Judas might want to wait and see what angle he could play. But no. Judas instead decides his own fate, by his own hand. Peter weeps bitterly into his hands but Judas, after trying to make his case to those to whom he had betrayed Jesus – and failing (!) – Judas goes and rather than weep, he takes his own life.
The shadow of guilt is upon both these men. And deservedly so. And yes Judas does bear the greater guilt – however, unlike Peter, Judas decides to put himself beyond hope. And while within a day Peter as well as the other disciples, followers and women will be grieving over the loss of their friend and rabbi Jesus as He hangs on the tree, Judas will not be with them to mourn. Peter will and Peter will live to see the light of Easter dawn and with the rising of that morning’s sun will come the rising of the Son of God as well. And with Him comes a hope that will burn in Peter longer and stronger than the remorse he now feels. But it’s that remorse that will be replaced by redemption from Jesus that will grant to Peter the light of hope eternal. The light of forgiveness will burn within Peter till his dying day and on that day his hope will have been fulfilled.
His dying day, unlike that of Judas takes place after the resurrection of Lord. And so too for you and I. When in the shadow of our sin and sorrow we too feel the darkness over our sinful ways we, like Peter and Judas may have tears of bitter sorrow and remorse. But unlike Judas we do not take matters into our own hands to put ourselves beyond hope. No.
We weep with Peter and with Peter we will go to the cross and mourn the loss of our beloved Lord. And yes, we too will see the light of Easter dawn. The light of hope will shine through the shadow of the darkness of our sin to be overcome in the grace of God. And so as we said ‘go and be like Peter, not Judas’. Go and yes weep over your sin, but go also knowing that the resurrection light of Jesus that dawned for Peter dawns for you too. Let that light burn away the shadow of your sorrow and tears for sin and then let that light bathe you with the hope that will carry you to your dying day! That light is Jesus – in whose name we pray, amen.
Sermon #809 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO (no Sermon #810 due to weather)
Holy Gospel Matthew 26:69-27:5
69 Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said.
70 But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.
71 Then he went out to the gateway, where another girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.”
72 He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!”
73 After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them, for your accent gives you away.”
74 Then he began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!”
Immediately a rooster crowed. 75 Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.
1 Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people came to the decision to put Jesus to death. 2 They bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate, the governor.
3 When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders. 4 “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”
“What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”
5 So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.