Luke 22:31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. 32 But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.”
33 Peter said, “Lord, I am ready to go to prison with you, and even to die with you.”
34 But Jesus said, “Peter, let me tell you something. Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.”
Ok. I guess it’s time that I said something.
We all know what happened, and we know what’s happened since. It would be easy for me to say that if the Messiah is risen from the dead, then nothing that happened before matters any more. But that would be wrong, and it would be there, coming between all of us in the future.
So it’s time to tell you that I’m a coward. I’m a big talker and everyone has probably had an earful of me a long time ago. I have no idea why Jesus chose me as the leader of this group, because most of you are smarter than me. I don’t understand half of what Jesus is saying, even now.
But the fact is that I’ve always acted like I was better than all of you when I wasn’t. I’ve been the one to speak up when I should have been quiet. I’ve been the one who thought the occasional right answer gave me the right to tell everyone- even Jesus- what to do. I was the one who thought I had to make a public show of my courage and loyalty, and I was the one who took a sword to the high priest’s soldiers and almost got all of us killed.
Somewhere back there at the beginning of all of this, when I saw Jesus do a miracle that I was sure no one could possible do, I told Jesus to go away and leave me alone, because I was just a big stupid fisherman and I wasn’t ready for all of this. He ignored me of course, because somehow he won’t let go of me or any of us. But I still feel the way I did that day, even now, after he’s back from the dead. I still wonder what any of this has to do with me, because I know what I did when he needed me.
I did all the talking the night before he was arrested, and I was the one who denied him. I was the one who denied him when a girl taunted me, and when some local pointed out my accent. Nobody threatened me, no one had a sword at my back. I was scared, and what I’d said and done earlier didn’t matter.
I didn’t think about Jesus, and I didn’t think about any of you. I took care of me, because I was only worried about me. It doesn’t matter that you were all just as scared as me that night and that most of us would have done the same thing. All I know is what I did, and when it was over, I walked over to those steps next to the temple and I cried like my wife and children were dead. I was in the worst failure of my life and I hated myself.
None of you have ever seen me cry. You’ve probably never heard me say I was wrong. You’ve known I was a coward, a talker and a failure. You’ve wondered why I was a leader and maybe you’ve told Jesus I shouldn’t be. You’ve known more about me than I knew about myself.
I’ve learned a lot these past few weeks, and I imagine we’re all going to learn a lot more in the days to come. But I’ve learned some things about myself. The most valuable lesson I’ve learned is this:
A few hours before I betrayed Jesus, he told me I would do it. Some of you heard him. He listened to all my talking, then calmly said I would deny him. Then he told me that when I had done it, and when I had turned back to him, I was to come back and “strengthen” you.
That makes about as little sense now as it did then.
I ‘ve really wondered what that could possibly mean. How could a coward and a failure like me strengthen anyone?
Then I realized something. I could strengthen you by telling you that Jesus won’t give up on you, even when you fail him. He still wants you as a disciple, still loves you and still calls you even when you are swearing that you don’t know him.
I can’t get used to that about Jesus, but it never goes away. He loves us that much and he won’t give up on us…ever.
You see, Jesus already knows the worst there is to know about us. He knows the things I’m afraid to admit. He knows the failures that are still out there in the future.
And he isn’t going to give up on you. He’s going to die and rise and embrace you just like he did to me. He said “Tell Peter.” Do you have any idea what that meant when I heard it? After all I’d done for him?
There’s a kind of strength there that I want all of you to have. It comes from being a failure and coward, from knowing Jesus knows my worst, and knowing he still wants me to be his disciple.
I want all of you to find that, because I think we’re all going to need it. It’s there right now, but maybe you need to fail like I did to discover it yourself. I can’t say.
That’s all. Thank you for listening.