Sermon: Peter Denies Jesus

Wednesday in the Second Week of Lent
Listen to the Sermon here.

Note: This sermon is adapted in large part from a series of sermons by Martin Luther and published under the title “Sermons on the Passion of Christ.”

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

The story of Peter’s fall and subsequent redemption is one of the most powerful and moving examples of God’s grace and forgiveness in the Bible. It reminds us that even the greatest saints are capable of terrible sin and that we must always live in fear of God. However, it also teaches us that we can find hope and comfort in God’s Word, even when we have fallen into sin.

Let us learn from Peter’s example what true repentance looks like. Peter “wept bitterly”, and this is where repentance begins – with a heart that genuinely recognizes and is deeply sorry for its sins. Peter’s agony was so great that he was compelled to flee from his fellow men and weep tears of remorse, of which there seemed to be no end. We must be truly sorrowful for disobeying God’s will and sinning. Why do we need to feel sorrow over our sins? So that we can turn away from it and no longer find joy, love or satisfaction in it.

Our own strength is not enough to achieve repentance, but God calls us to turn away from our sinful ways. He seeks to be reconciled with us once more. As we see in the example of Peter, Jesus calls and warns us just as He had forewarned Peter. Despite denying Jesus once, Peter continued to do so three times. He even went so far as to curse and swear that he did not know Jesus. However, when the rooster crowed, and Jesus turned to look at him. Peter was immediately struck with the weight of his actions and the realization of his wrongdoing.

The same is true of us. We are warned through the preaching of the Law. The purpose of the Law is to show us our sins. The Law is preached so that we might realize our wrongdoing. The Law fills us with terror when it threatens us with God’s wrath.

This account also brings us comfort. We begin to see the positive results of Jesus’ sacrifice in this situation. The story of Peter’s fall shows us how God is forgiving and how we can be forgiven for our wrongdoing and be restored.

Peter’s sin was terrible and heinous. He feels it very strongly, to the point where he can’t handle being around other people anymore and sneaks away to cry bitterly. However, we see that Jesus had predicted this would happen and later forgave Peter without punishing him as severely as he could have. Remember, on Easter, before Jesus had revealed Himself, the angel at the tomb instructed the women to tell His disciples, especially Peter, that Jesus had risen. Later, Jesus appeared to Peter to console him after appearing to Mary Magdalene and the other women.

This gives us hope and comfort, reminding us not to give up on God’s grace even if we stumble. Seeing how the Lord dealt with Peter can help us be confident that Jesus cares for us. Christ did not reject His disciples, especially Peter, who denied Him so shamefully and abandoned Him. But our merciful Lord still loved them and treated them as dear disciples, despite their sinful behaviour. We should take comfort in this and apply it to our own lives. You must know that God will always treat us with love and forgiveness.

In his moment of despair and sorrow, Peter found solace in the word spoken to him by the Lord at the Last Supper. “Satan demanded to have you, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.” Even though his heart was filled with anxiety and grief, he did not fall into despair like Judas. At first, his consolation was as small as a grain of mustard seed. Still, it rested on God’s Word and promises, growing and growing until it became a mighty flood that washed away all doubts and fears.

When the Law causes us to recognize our sins and fear God’s wrath, our best course of action is to humble ourselves before God and confess our sins freely. We must acknowledge that we are poor and miserable sinners and that without God’s grace, we are powerless to resist sin. But just like Peter, we, too, have a word spoken to us that can bring us hope and comfort. This word is the Gospel, the good news that Christ has suffered and died in our place and that through his sacrifice, we have been granted forgiveness, life, and salvation. Christ died for us, and His sacrifice offers us comfort and aid, even though we are undeserving sinners. Your hope is in God’s promises and His Word. When faced with your sins, your comfort is knowing that God will be merciful to us for the sake of His Son, Jesus Christ. As we seek the comfort offered in God’s Word and trust in His mercy, we find hope and comfort amid our great sinfulness.

We see from all this that true repentance involves two crucial components. The first is a deep sense of remorse and sorrow. This is brought about through the knowledge of sin and the realization of your own culpability.

The second part of repentance is faith, comes from the Gospel. Just as Peter found comfort and forgiveness through the word spoken to him, we too can find solace and hope in the Gospel – the message of Christ’s sacrifice and forgiveness. Faith trusts that through Christ’s sacrifice, sins are forgiven, and we are comforted and freed from fear and guilt.

We must remember that our own strength cannot achieve this repentance but rather it is a gift from God through the preaching of his Word. Only through the power of both Law and Gospel can we truly repent and find the peace that our hearts long for. Since we cannot live without temptation, we should prepare for it in advance. This means we must diligently hear and learn God’s Word, and remember it so that we, too, can have consolation like Peter’s in our times of sorrow. We can find hope and forgiveness through God’s grace when we recognize our wrongdoing and turn away from our sinful ways.

The example of St. Peter is given to us for both instruction and comfort. Firstly, we must learn to flee false security and live in fear of God, recognizing that even the greatest saints can fall terribly. Secondly, we must cling to God’s Word and find comfort in it, even when we have fallen into sin. We must never despair like Judas did, for God does not wish anyone to be driven to despair by their sins. Rather, the Son of God came to this earth and died on the cross to banish such evils.

True repentance involves both being deeply humbled and terrified by our sin and finding hope and comfort in the Lord Jesus and His. To truly repent is both to turn away from sin and towards God, recognizing our need for His mercy and forgiveness.

As true Christians, we must fear God and have confidence in His grace and Word, knowing that we will always find comfort, deliverance, and help. May our dear Father in Heaven, through His Holy Spirit, grant us all the strength and wisdom to do so. Let us never forget the sacrifice of our blessed Lord and Savior, and let us always strive to live our lives in a way that honors Him.           

May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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