“The Courtyard: A Place of Renewal”

Luke 22:54-62

{Prayer}

            Have you ever been caught by surprise in a store?  Let’s say one morning your son’s car won’t start, so you get up and drive him into an early morning practice.  You haven’t had time to shower or put on anything decent.  On your way home, you decide to stop by the store to grab a few things and then, somewhere from behind you comes a voice.  The voice calls out your name.  Now normally you enjoy meeting people … but not today.  Not like this.  Today you want to run and hide.  Why?  Because all of a sudden you see yourself and think “Do I really look like this, out in public?”  It’s a moment of self-revelation, self-realization.

            Peter has a moment of self-discovery.  Peter sees who he is in terms of his denial of Jesus.  But, simply by God’s grace, Jesus also holds out another picture for us.  A picture of who Jesus is for Peter.  Jesus is Peter’s Savior.  This morning, we’re going to meditate on these two pictures … Peter’s denial and Peter’s Savior.  By doing this, it is my prayer that we will grow in trust of our Savior, who enters into our places of denial and turns them into places of renewal by his love.

            We’re in the courtyard of the high priest’s house.  This is the place of Peter’s denial.  As we listen in on the conversation which occurs here, we see more and more of Peter’s life stripped away.  It’s kind of like watching a crack in the foundation slowly spread apart.  Eventually this crack brings the whole house down.  The servant girl is the first to reveal the problem.  She mentions the relationship between Peter and Jesus.  “This man was with him” (Luke 22:56) she says.  She puts Peter and Jesus together, but Peter denies it, “Woman, I don’t know him” (22:57).  A crack in the foundation forms as Peter denies his Lord.  When your relationship with Jesus is broken … it doesn’t take long for everything else to give way. 

            From this, we move to Peter’s relationship with Jesus and the disciples.  Someone says, “You also are one of them” (22:58).  So, we have Peter and Jesus and then Peter and the disciples.  Finally, someone offers an ever bigger picture.  He says, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean” (22:59).  We move from Peter and Jesus to Peter and the disciples to Peter and all of the ministry of Jesus in Galilee.  And Peter still says “No”.  When your relationship with Jesus is broken … it doesn’t take long for everything to give way.

            At this moment, Peter has a moment of self-discovery.  He hears a sounds, sees a face, and remembers a word.  Luke writes, “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” (22:60-61).  Like hearing your name called in a store, Peter at this point remembers and sees.  He remembers what Jesus said.  Jesus knew him better than he knew himself.  Peter said he would follow Jesus to prison.  He’d follow him to death.  But instead … Peter denied he ever knew Jesus. 

           This is a moment of spiritual self-discovery.  By our own might, we are unable to follow Jesus.  Salvation is not dependent on what we do for Jesus.  It never has been, and it never will be.  And if, if we ever rely on our own strength rather than Jesus … we too have entered into a place of denial.

           That is what really makes this a place of denial.  Not the drama of having other people question you about Jesus but the simple nature of your relationship with him.  Whenever we rely on our own strength instead of Jesus, we’ve entered into a place of denial.  Think about our places of denial.  They aren’t as dramatic as Peter’s, but they are still places of denial.  It could be a place of honor in the church.  You were one who help get this building built.  It could be a place of great leadership, as we’ve done so much to further the kingdom of God.  It could be the frequency and fervor of our devotional life.  We look at these things, our years of membership, our leadership, our attendance in church, our time spent in Bible study and prayer, and we slowly begin to think that we are strong in the faith because of our doing.  We become a bit bolder in our witness.  We speak out at work, sharing our disgust with our culture’s sinful lifestyle.  We speak up at church meetings.  After all, people should listen to us, we’ve been members around here for years.  And then, as we think we are growing stronger and stronger in the faith … we actually are neglecting the crack in the foundation. 

           You see, there are many ways of denial.  You can deny Jesus by saying you never knew him, clearly, emphatically, right in the middle of a courtyard like Peter.  Or, or you can deny Jesus by saying you know him, loudly, emphatically, self-righteously, but yet all the while forgetting his work in your life.  You look like a Christian.  You talk like a Christian.  You do all of the things that a Christian does.  But there’s a crack in the foundation.  You’re relying on your own power, your own achievements. There is this crack between you and Jesus, and soon, soon the whole structure will begin to fall.

           There will come a time when we have not been able to do as we had hoped, when we tell our child that “Christians don’t do that.”  He’ll reply, “But Dad, you do it all the time.”  When we make a promise and then don’t follow through with it.  When we see, as Peter did, that we cannot follow into prison or give our lives unto death, when we see that we are weak, that we are sinful and that there is no health in us, and for a despairing moment … all we can say is “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.

           To such people, to you and me, Luke offers another word.  He offers to us the word of Jesus.  The story of his passion.  In the midst of our failure, Jesus is and remains the one who takes away our sin.  Our salvation doesn’t depend on how much we can bear for Jesus.  Instead, it depends on what Jesus bears for us.  Our forgiveness, it doesn’t depend on what we do or say for Jesus.  Our forgiveness rests securely on what Jesus does and says for us. 

           In the face of Peter’s denial as his disciple, Jesus continues to be his Lord.  While Peter goes out to weep bitterly, Jesus goes on to suffer for this man that is weeping.  It is Jesus’ work, Jesus’ love, Jesus’ mercy which overcomes our sin.  Jesus knew Peter better than Peter knew himself.  And Jesus knows you better than you know yourself.  He sees this denial and our sins, and yet Jesus continues to go to the cross.  We are not saved by giving our lives up for Jesus … Jesus saves us by giving his life up for the forgiveness of our sin.  That’s what Luke is revealing here.  When Peter is caught up in the act of denial … Jesus continues in his act of love.

           By doing this, Luke asks you and me to see a different picture.  He wants us to see the picture of a Savior’s love.  Jesus comes to us in the most awkward moments.  He doesn’t wait until we get it all together.  He doesn’t wait until we have overcome our temptations and have fought our demons and have conquered our sins and have achieved our goals.  No, Jesus comes now, while we struggle.  Now, while we confess our failure.  Now, while we feel like we’ll never be the person God wants us to be.  He comes now to assure us that “by grace you have been saved through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is a gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).  Jesus is the foundation of our life before God.  God the Father received Jesus’ life as payment for your life so that Jesus might give you his love for all time.

           Jesus comes to you today with a love which never changes.  Time passes and our life is filled with change.  We move from home to a dorm to an apartment.  From an apartment to a house.  From a house to a condo.  From a condo to a retirement center.  From a retirement center to a skilled care facility.  From a skilled care facility to our grave.  And from our grave, we will be raised to live in our Savior’s kingdom.  In each place along the way … Jesus remains the same.  He is the one who forgives our sins and saves our souls.  Even at the end, after death and the grave, we will be raised to find him as we have always known him to be.  The one who went to the cross to die for our sin and who rose from the grave for our salvation.  Jesus brings us today a picture of his love.  In those times when you are faced with a painful self-discovery, Luke wants you to see your Savior.  Trust in his love.  Live in his kingdom.  Pray in his name.  Know that as you know him now, he will ever be.  Jesus enters our places of denial and makes them places of renewal in his love.  Amen.

           The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, now and forever.  Amen.

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