2014-03-23 – Rev. Dr. Ryan Sato – First Baptist Church Edmonton
GodStory, Act IV: Jesus
Key Event #29 of 40
Reading: John 18:12-27
Title: “Promises for Peetering Out Peters”
Last week during our Lectio Divina service we got another look at the impulsive, but “you gotta love ‘im” Peter. One of Jesus’ dearest and most sincere disciples. A bit of a hot-head, but fun-loving and probably the life of the party. When you do the Christian-characters versions of personality tests, it turns out that Peter is usually ESTP [extraversion – sensing – thinking – perception] : doers, outgoing, blunt, risk-takers, flair for drama & style, innovative, fun to be with…
When Jesus made motions towards Peter with a basin and towel to wash his feet, Peter exclaimed: “Lord, you will never wash my feet!”
Jesus answers: “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.”
Can you see the thought bubble above Peter’s head: “No share with me?…Jesus still doesn’t understand that I would die for him! What do I need to do to prove how much I’m devoted to his cause…c’mon Jesus!”
Peter’s passionate response: “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!”
Imagine Jesus…on his knees before Peter… looking at him with a tender gaze…putting a hand on his knee and saying: “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean…”
All this happens during Jesus’ last meal with his disciples, with Judas’ betrayal looming about…it must have been soooooo intense!
Betrayal. Footwashing. Intimacy. Scheming.
And it’s important to remember the persistance of Jesus’ love flowing throughout this drama and the rollercoaster of emotions…I’ve been reflecting on John 13:1 this past week and encouraging us (at church council + congregational meeting) to consider how Jesus’ never-ending love for us, might shape the way we live and move and see ourselves in this season of Lent…
“Jesus…having loved his own who were in the world…loved them to the end.”
The very next phrase is “the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him”… [devil, judas, betrayal!]
But the Johannine writer has already set the stage for us…and has been sounding it out, story after story since the beginning of the gospel…
1:16 From his fullness we have received grace upon grace
3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave [“handed over”] his only son…so that everyone who believes in him may have deep, lasting life…
5:20 The Father loves the son and shows him all that he himself is doing; and he will show him greater works than these, so that you will be ASTONISHED… [amazing, astonishing love!]
8:10-11 Has no one condemned you?…Neither do I condemn you…
10:11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep….I know my own and my own know me…
10:27 My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me….No one will snatch them out of my hand.
11:35 Jesus began to weep…some in the crowd said “See how he loved Lazarus!”
THIS is the background work of love that has been emerging story after story in this gospel…
“Jesus…having loved his own who were in the world, loved them to the end…”
And so it goes that at the end of chapter 13, Jesus’ last words to his disciples is centered on love…
11:34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another…
This commandment leads us back to one of the central characters of today’s story…dear old devoted & impulsive Peter – –
He cries out: “Lord, where are you going!”
Jesus answers: Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow afterward.”
“Lord, why can I not follow you now!!?? I will lay down my life for you!!”
Jesus answers, “Will you lay down your life for me? Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times.”
[imagine the scene fading to black…]
We pick up the story in a garden outside of Jerusalem where Jesus and his disciples would often pray…but this night is strangely different…this is not Jesus on a prayer retreat with his friends…these are wide-eyed disciples, huddled together…not knowing what to say, let alone pray! They hear rustling from the rural hills…the bustling of bodies and the clanging of lanterns, swords and armour…
Judas brings with him a detachment of soldiers, together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees…there’s at least 200 people in this group and they flood into the woody and grassy area where Jesus and his disciples have gathered…200 vs 12…the disciples quickly realize that the odds are against them…
Jesus moves towards the captain of the battalion who is close to Judas side and asks:
“Whom are you looking for?”
The captain answers “Jesus of Nazareth.”
Jesus replies: “I AM….he.”
The light that shines in the darkness makes himself known!
The battalion, temple police, and Pharisees, step back and fall to their knees.
Jesus asks again:
“Whom are you looking for?”
The crusty, no-nonsense captain answers: “Jesus of Nazareth.”
Jesus answers again:
“I told you that I AM…he. So if you are looking for me, let my disciples go.
No one will snatch them out of my hand.”
Peter jumps from the shadows and cries out “Never!!” He swings his sword towards the guards and the officers, clipping the ear of a slave named Malchus. As blood splatters, 2 dozen officers leap towards Peter and wrestle him to the ground, some pulling out their clubs and getting in a swing or two before Jesus yells out:
“Put away your sword Peter!
Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?”
The soldiers and officers bind up Jesus and begin the moon-lit journey to the courtyard of the high priest in the city of Jerusalem.
After 30-40 minute trek a “double interrogation” begins in the “office” and the inner courtyard of the high priest.
VV. (16-27)… the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the woman who guarded the gate, and brought Peter in.
The woman said to Peter, “You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?”
He said, “I am not.”
Now the slaves and the police had made a charcoal fire because it was cold, and they were standing around it and warming themselves.
Peter also was standing with them and warming himself.
Then the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching. Jesus answered, “I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said.”
When he had said this, one of the police standing nearby struck Jesus on the face, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?”
Jesus answered, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?” Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.
Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They asked him,
“You are not also one of his disciples, are you?”
He denied it and said, “I am not.”
One of the slaves 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?”
Again Peter denied it, and at that moment the cock crowed.
You and I are fortunate enough to know how this story ends for Peter…foresight is 20/20 for 21st century Jesus-followers!
But I’d like you to try to live into the tension and darkness and despair of today’s story…let us stand alongside Peter…
In the midst of the mess and complication of this story…encounter Jesus, the one who “loves to the end”…this Jesus who says time and time again… I AM…
John 6:35 (ESV)
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.
John 8:12 (ESV)
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
John 10:7 (ESV)
So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.
John 10:11 (ESV)
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
John 11:25 (ESV)
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,
John 14:6 (ESV)
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
John 15:1 (ESV)
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.
Of course, perhaps the most important one:
John 8:58 (ESV)
Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”
The one that really got him in trouble was “before Abraham was… I AM!
In the intensity of love, devotion, feet being washed by the I AM, it seems no accident here that the Johannine writer records Peter’s response in his interrogation as:
To the peasant woman, making 2$/day to watch a courtyard gate, when pushed for his affiliation to Jesus, the bold, – – “I will lay down my life for you Peter” says:
To the temple policeman…who just a couple hours earlier had been in the battalion of soldiers who arrested Jesus in the garden…who would not have forgotten Peter’s face and sword…when he pushes for Peter’s alliance to Jesus, Peter says:
To the slave and relative of Malchus, who still had blood spatters on his cloak from Peter’s wild and fury-filled sword swipe…when this relative asks Peter “Did I not see you in the garden with Jesus?” [Surely I saw you in the garden with Jesus?]
Peter again [for a 3rd time] denies any connection to Jesus….
As Peter is shutting down…and shutting out…trying to become invisible as the “I AM NOT” in the crowd…
Jesus is declaring his “I AM’ness” to Annas.
“I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in the synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret…”
Today’s story feels like it might be a tough one to squeeze some good news out of…
But as we stand back and look at the big picture of what is happening in these last days of Jesus’ life…we’re not supposed to get obsessed with the violence or the bruisings and beatings that Jesus endures as he’s bound up and then struck on the face by temple police and soldiers…
This story is about Jesus’ faithfulness…in the midst of our faith-less-ness…
It’s about Jesus’ confidence in us…even when we are not confident in him…
It’s about his eternal & immoveable presence of being “I AM”… even when we linger in the cold, dark shadows…hiding out and saying: “I AM NOT.”
Each of us, with all of our best Christian intentions, and daily devotion, end up denying Jesus…by what he have done…or left undone…and yet Jesus is not denying us…instead…the promise for us is that Jesus is loving us to the end.
This great prayer that Jesus prays before today’s Kidron Valley garden scene is one that Peter probably needed to hang onto after he heard the cock grow…in the midst of his self-disappointment and self-loathing…perhaps portions of this prayer kept him sane – – and they need to be words of hope and promise for us today…
[Jn. 17:25-26] “Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
This love, which is never-ending for us, pours out from the community of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As Paul the Apostle would write 50 years later…
“God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” (Rom. 5:5)
In a quiet moment, let us be still…and make way for God to enter into the dark places of our lives…places of denial…places where we have declared “I AM…Not!”
Invite the great I AM to invade and redeem those places…
Allow the living Christ to enter into those dark, cold corners…where we might find ourselves shivering and desperately rubbing our hands together, seeking to find warmth…and let our living and persistent Jesus…Love you to the end.
That Lenten Hymn, “What wondrous love is this” (#257) is a good closing prayer for us:
To God and to the Lamb I will sing, I will sing;
To God and to the Lamb I will sing;
To God and to the Lamb,
Who is the great I AM,
While millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing,
While millions join the theme, I will sing.