Thursday, February 29, 2024

“Two Interrogations” John 18.12–27 Lenten Mid 2 Feb ‘24


1.                 Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Heavenly Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The message from God’s Word as we continue our Lenten sermon series on St John’s Passion is taken from John 18:12-27. It’s entitled, “Two Interrogations,” dear brothers and sisters in Christ.

2.                 It’s dark. The disciples have fled. Jesus, with hands tied, is led by the soldiers through the winding streets of Jerusalem to the house of Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas the high priest. It was Caiaphas, John reminds us, who accidently prophesied that it was “expedient that one man should die for the people” (John 18:14; cf John 11:50). John and Peter follow at a distance and then enter the outer courtyard of the house.

3.                 John puts our attention on two events happening at the same time: the interrogation of Jesus before the high priest and the interrogation of Peter in the courtyard. Jesus had prophesied Peter’s threefold betrayal before the rooster crows. It’s coming true. The servant girl at the door asks Peter, “You also are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He says, “I am not” (John 18:17). This should ring in our ears as we recall Jesus in the garden, saying, “I am.” The text leaves Peter warming himself by the fire and brings us inside to Jesus.

4.                 Jesus answers Annas’s questions by indicating that he always taught in public. His is no secret teaching. An officer strikes Jesus on the face, the first of many blows that Jesus will suffer. “If what I said is right, why do you strike me?” Jesus asks (John 18:23), reminding us that all that he will suffer and endure was undeserved.

5.                 Then we’re back to the courtyard. Peter is standing around the fire and is asked again, “You also are not one of his disciples, are you?” “I am not” (John 18:25). Peter is getting irritated, uncomfortable. A relative of Malchus, the man whose ear Peter had cut off and Jesus healed, also asks, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” (John 18:26). A third time Peter denies it; he denies Jesus, and a rooster crows.

6.                 The other Gospels tell us that Peter was cursing and vehemently denying Jesus, and at the exact moment of his third and most fervent denial, three things happen: the rooster crows, Jesus turns to look at Peter, and Peter remembers the prediction of his denial. He knows what he’s done, and he comes unravelled. He begins to weep bitterly, and he runs out of the courtyard into the night. John simply tells us, “Peter again denied it, and at once a rooster crowed” (John 18:27). Two interrogations. Tonight, we’ll consider how these two interrogations confront and comfort us.

7.                 First, Peter. Peter had gone from napping to sword swinging in a matter of minutes. He had run away with John, gathered his wits, and stirred up his courage to follow at a distance. He was shaking, unsteady, nervous about the drops of Malchus’s blood on his robes. He wanted to know what was happening with Jesus, but he certainly did not want to be known as a disciple. That was too much of a risk. Peter is undercover, a secret follower of Jesus. But there is something about Peter that causes those gathered around the fire to question him. His look. His accent. His nervous glancing around.

8.                 The servant girl at the door, the people standing around the fire, a relative of Malchus: “You are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” I wonder what would’ve happened if Peter had been bold to confess, “Yes, I am his disciple and friend.” Would he have been brought before the high priest, called on to make a testimony, bound and led with Jesus to Pilate? Would Peter have been crucified alongside Christ? We’ll never know, because he did not confess but denied him. He was afraid of the ropes, the whips, the threat of punishment and death.

9.                 There is a temptation and a danger in the fear of death. Hebrews 2 warns us about this. This is a beautiful and comforting text, but it has a warning for us: “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same.” Just as we have a body, Jesus assumes our human nature, our flesh and blood, “that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil.” The devil, the text tells us, has the power of death, but Jesus’ death is the devil’s destruction. That power can no longer be wielded against us. What’s the result? “[He] release[s] those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Heb 2:14–15 NKJV). Jesus’ suffering releases us from bondage, but this is a very specific bondage; it is the bondage to the fear of death.

10.             Here’s where we must pay careful attention. If we are afraid to die, the devil has us in a kind of bondage, and he can use that fear against us. He used it against Peter. Peter was afraid of suffering, afraid of crucifixion. “Are you his disciple?”I am not.” He was a fearful and faithless witness. He was interrogated, and he failed.

11.             Jesus used Peter’s failure to teach him humility and the blessing of forgiveness. Jesus would find Peter some days later, after his death and resurrection, and on the shore of Galilee ask him three times, “Do you love me?” Then Peter confesses and is restored. “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you” (see Jn 21:15–19). Peter repented, was forgiven, and put into the office of preaching the Gospel and forgiving sins. But Peter in his weaknesses and failings is also put before us as an example, a warning. We, too, will be interrogated. “Are you a follower of Jesus? Are you a Christian?” A confession might be costly. No matter. We confess Christ. We make the good confession.

12.             We see this in the second interrogation, Jesus before Annas. The stakes were high, but this is why Jesus came. This is his hour. He is asked to give an account of his teaching and disciples. He replies that he taught nothing in private or in secret. He was in the temple where everyone could hear. No doubt Annas and those gathered that night had heard Jesus teaching on many occasions.

13.             Jesus is telling the truth, but, we notice, he does not defend himself. He does not make an argument for his own innocence. He does not turn the tables on his accusers and show them as law breakers. Like a lamb who is silent before its shearers, he opens not his mouth. Jesus is the righteous One, but he doesn’t claim his own righteousness. He is the innocent One, but he doesn’t defend himself. He has no guilt, but he is bearing the guilt of the world.

14.             So Jesus stands in this earthly courtroom and does not defend himself. Why? So that he could stand in the heavenly courtroom to defend us. “We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 Jn 2:1). Jesus before Annas reminds us of the comfort of Jesus before the Father. You might be interrogated about your faith here on earth, and we pray that we will have faith and courage to confess the Lord Christ. But we will not be interrogated in heaven. The Judgment Day is not an interrogation, to inspect our works and check up on our sins. Jesus stands in your place, and he promises, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (5:24 NKJV).

15.             Jesus goes to court, but like everything he does, it is not for his benefit, but yours. The Holy One stands in the place of sinners, suffering for our guilt, so that he can stand before the throne of God and advocate forgiveness—for Peter, for all sinners, for you. He declines to defend himself in order that he can defend you, forgive you, cover your shame with his blood and your guilt with his suffering. Amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, until life everlasting. Amen.



“A Death Dealing Diagnosis” Mark 8.27-38 Lent 2B Feb. ‘24


1.      Please pray with me. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, our Rock, and our Redeemer. Amen. A death dealing diagnosis is hard to hear and even harder to endure, but when God is in control it leads to a new vision of life. Our message from God’s Word on this 2nd Sunday in Lent is taken from Mark 8:27-38, it’s entitled, “A Death Dealing Diagnosis,” dear brothers and sisters in Christ.

2.      When you first receive a diagnosis of death, your world spins. You are filled with questions that are not easy to answer. There is a moment of disbelief. This can’t be happening. Not now. Not to you. The days ahead are transformed. Priorities shift. Vacation plans change. Leveling the low spot in the yard and laying new sod is suddenly no longer important. A night at home with the kids is welcomed as a blessed gift. Even though it is in the midst of terrible questions, such news draws us closer to one another and closer to God.

3.      A death dealing diagnosis has a way of stirring up the remaining embers of life, so we see certain things in a different light. We see life. Not life as we want it to be, but life as it is. Every day, every hour, every second, is a treasured gift from God.

4.      In our text for this Second Sunday in Lent, the disciples first hear a death dealing prophecy from Jesus. “And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:31). Jesus “began” to teach these things. Such news would necessitate frequent retellings. Three times in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus predicts His passion (Mark 8:31, 9:31, 10:33-34) and three times the disciples do not understand.

5.      Although Jesus keeps opening the door, no disciple wants to enter that building. The house of death is rarely a place people willingly enter. They need to be thrust through the door. And this passion prediction, this first announcement of His dying, this one is maybe the hardest of them all. Later, the disciples listen in fearful silence (Mark 9:32), but this time Peter responds.

6.      Mark tells us Peter rebukes Jesus. Peter has just confessed Jesus to be the Christ and now Peter rebukes Him. Maybe we need to linger on that moment... a disciple rebuking his teacher, a believer rebuking his Lord.

7.      Have you ever struggled with God? Questioned His ways in your life? Such conversations are filled with passion, because God is at work, challenging and changing the things we value, opening our lives to a direction we do not want to go. When we rebuke God, it is a good time to stop and look around and listen. Because, in those moments, God is asking us to see things not as we want them to be, but as they really are in His Kingdom.

8.      Mark does not record Peter’s words. He trusts we know what such resistance would sound like. Suffering should not happen. Not to God. Not to God’s people. Why not? Why should this suffering not happen to Jesus?

9.      Maybe it should not happen because Peter trusts the religious authorities would never do such a thing. One expects the Church to act faithfully, to abide by the ways of God, to treat others with love and respect, and to reach out with the Gospel. But, the Church does not always act in the way God desires. The leaders of the Church can act out of power rather than love. For this to happen means I may need to change my whole understanding of the Church and how the Church works in the world.

10.    Maybe it should not happen because Peter understands Jesus to be the Christ and the Christ would never suffer in such a way. To be the Christ means to be an anointed one. God would never abandon His anointed one. He would deliver Him, rescue Him, save Him from death, and not let Him suffer it. For this to happen means I need to change my whole understanding of God and how God works in the world.

11.   Maybe it should not happen because Peter has followed Jesus. He has left everything to be part of these disciples. He has gone all in. This is not just his future Jesus is talking about, it is our future as well. We believed in Him and followed Him and want it all to go well. We need it to go well because this is all we have. For this to happen means I need to change my whole understanding of discipleship and what it means to have a future with Jesus.

12.   Jesus’ answer to Peter here in Mark 8 at first glance seems overly harsh. It wasn’t because Peter in speaking to Christ as he did was really championing the cause of Satan. This was the same temptation Satan had set before Christ in the wilderness. It agreed completely with what we usually want for ourselves—power and glory without any suffering. But it did not agree with God’s plan of salvation. Thank God that Jesus answered as he did. He rejected Peter’s well-meant but ill-conceived rebuke. Without Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection, we would still be in our sins and lost forever.

13.   The death dealing diagnosis from our Lord changes the way we see the world. The Church is a gathering of sinners, constantly needing to confess its sins against its own people and its God. The Messiah is a Savior of sinners, enduring the punishment of their sin unto the point of death and rising from the dead to rule over the Kingdom of God. Discipleship is not an easy road, a harnessing of God’s power to fulfill our projects of self-fulfillment. It is a loss of life, a dying to self, a carrying of a cross, which brings us closer to God.

14.   Jesus addressed these words here in Mark 8 to a crowd as well as to his disciples. Christ had asked his disciples whom they considered him to be. He immediately corrected their worldly expectations by telling them that as Christ he would have to suffer and die. Then he told the crowd and his disciples what it meant to follow this Son of Man, who was to suffer and die. Many in the crowds had been following Christ for entirely material reasons. Many were also leaving (John 6:60–66) when it became clear that Jesus would not permit himself to becoming an earthly king, a bread king who would give them a free Happy Meal every day (John 6:14, 15). Jesus demonstrated his own dedication to the mission on which the Father had sent him. He faced his own destiny and he told the crowd and his disciples that if they followed him, they would face the same destiny. Following Christ means denying oneself, that is, refusing to make oneself the sole object in one’s life but making God and his will the center of one’s life. That will always involve sacrifices, avoiding everything that might come between us and our Savior (Mark 7:20–23), even taking up a cross and being ready to suffer shame and death to remain faithful to him.

15.   Is the Christian life worthwhile? Christ tells us that whoever denies him and seeks a beautiful earthly existence will lose his life. That person will end up in hell. Losing one’s earthly life for Christ and the gospel means keeping eternal life. Most of us today are not asked to offer great sacrifices. By taking the Lord’s promise of eternal life into consideration, we can easily answer our Lord’s next two questions: “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” and “What can a man give in exchange for his soul?” Possessing the whole world is not worth losing one’s soul, but the sad fact is that many will sacrifice their salvation for a great deal less.

16.   Whoever would save his life will lose it,” Jesus says. “But whoever loses his life for My sake and the Gospel’s will save it” (Mark 9:35). Jesus did not come to save our dreams of what the Church and the Messiah and discipleship should be. He came to suffer the punishment of our sin to save us, to die under the reality of a corrupt church, so He might rise to build a new community of forgiveness. Jesus bore the reality of death that He might rise to lead His disciples to new life in a dying world.

17.   A death dealing diagnosis is hard to hear and even harder to endure, but when God is in control it leads to a new vision of life. It may not be life in the way we imagine, but it is life in the way only God can provide. Amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, until life everlasting. Amen.