Matthew 26:73-75, 27:3-4 After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, "Certainly you are also one of them, for your accent betrays you." Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, "I do not know the man." And immediately the cock crowed. And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, "Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times." And he went out and wept bitterly. -- When Judas, his betrayer, saw that he was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, "I have sinned in betraying innocent blood." They said, "What is that to us? See to it yourself."
There are 3 stories woven together in our Gospel, the chief story is of course, Jesus, betrayed, condemned and about to die, not for his sins, but for all our sins, that we might be forgiven and have peace with God and life everlasting. Jesus story is always the biggest story, and in some ways, that is part of the problem, for who can understand that kind of love, or that large a sacrifice? So we listen to the story of Jesus love, and of his sacrifice with awe, that someone could love us so completely and perfectly, and give up so much, for us.
Its not hard to understand how someone might die for a good man, but to die for your enemies, and for those who are persecuting you. And it wasnít just Jews and Romans then, it is us, now. For we too are sinners, and Jesus died for us carrying our guilt, shame and our punishment. We know the scriptures, If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
But our focus is not on that which we know, but on the rest of the story. I said there were 3 stories in our Gospel, the story of Jesus, and 2 stories about sinners and about the application, that which we call the rest of the story. What is the rest of the story?If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
So we read in our lesson about 2 disciples who betrayed our Lord, Peter who denied that he even knew Jesus, and Judas who sold him for money. 2 sinners, and 2 very different outcomes. And while we may not be able to fathom the depth of Jesus love, we certainly understand sin, we know Jesus words, If you love me, you will keep my commandments Ė so that every time we sin, it is just like telling Jesus, I donít love you, or perhaps each time we sin, it is just like we are the ones pounding the nails into Jesus hands and feet.
Why do we do it? We could use the original excuse, Satan deceived me. For that is what temptation is, Satan telling us that breaking the commandments is good, or fun, or profitable, and we believe him. And not only is this the problem, but it points to the solution as well. Imagine, if you will, that there are 2 angels, one on your left and one on your right, the angel on your right reminds you of Godís love, and about the commandments God gave us, the angel on the left is saying, donít listen to him, lets have fun, you can be good later. Some might say, thatís no angel, thatís the devil Ė and theyíd be right. But which one do you listen to, which one do you follow, which one do you believe. Itís a simple test, and the answer is seen in what you do Ė do you do what God wants, or do you do what the devil wants? Do we want God to cleanse us from all unrighteousness? Now? Or do you believe Satan?
Now both Peter and Judas committed serious sins. Both felt remorse, both were sorry for what they had done. But Judas went out and hung himself, and Peter went on to feed the precious lambs as a pastor and apostle in the church. Why? How could 2 sinners turn out so differently?
The answer is terribly simple, Peter turned out the way he did because he trusted in the grace of God, he believed that God was faithful and that the blood of Jesus could wash away even his sin, all his sin. Judas didnít believe that he could be forgiven, and he despaired. That the danger in sin, for when you listen to the devil, you believe him enough to sin, and you doubt God Ė and that is why Satan works so hard on the small sins, so that little by little he can get us to stop trusting in God, so that we will never turn to God or ask for forgiveness or trust that the blood of Jesus can wash all our sins away. Its not that Peter BELIEVED, its rather that he did not refuse the gift of faith which God had given him, for it is God who creates faith, and the people who donít believe, donít believe, not because God didnít give them faith, but because either they would not accept Godís gift, or because in following Satan into temptation, they lay down a faith they once had, and then fail to pick it up again [often forgetting where they put it]. May we always remember Jesus blood shed for us.