Christ Came Not to Call the Righteous, but Sinners to Repentance
Luke 22:56,57 - 3rd Midweek Lent Vespers - March 19, 2014

“A certain maid beheld him as he sat by the fire, and earnestly looked upon him, and said, This man was also with Him. And he denied Him, saying, Woman, I know Him not.”

Friends in Christ, believers in Christ, may God by His Word and Spirit continue to strengthen us, and assure us. There is plenty of ugliness and brutality in tonight’s passion History. This is when it really begins, the night in which Jesus is betrayed. Yet, let us be comforted, in that, Jesus endured it all for you and me. In fact, this suffering servant, will have some very specific words for you, on your last day, because of what He endured on our behalf – “Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” Prepared for you. On the night He was betrayed, Jesus also mentions this preparation to the disciples, “I go and prepare a place for you.” He spoke of the many mansions in heaven being prepared for you and me. Yet that prepartion wasn’t that of a carpenter, putting up the 2x4s and sheet rock, building the rooms. Jesus meant, He would go to the cross, and suffer, and die, and even before that in the hands of cruel sinners, He would endure many things for us, to prepare for us, eternal heaven, by making satisfaction for our sins.

This is for your assurance, your comfort, children of God. “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities...and with His stripes we are healed.”

There is a lot of ugliness tonight. The ugliness of sin rears it’s head tonight. Just hearing the words that describe this night, first there is the “betrayal” (Judas), then comes the “abandonement” (all the disciples forsook Him and fled), then comes the “denial” (Peter), then comes the “false accusations.” Then comes the “condemnation” – “He is guilty of death”. Yet what did Jesus do, exactly? What law did He break, that made Him guilty? Then comes the “mocking.” Then comes the violence. They “spit” on Him, covered His face, and punched Him, some with a closed fist, and some with open hands. Then comes the “blasphemy”.

Yet, through it all, how patient, and how kind, how generous, and how forgiving Christ is toward those who hated Him. Later, the first words from the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Tonight is the night, when it seems that injustice and evil and brutality prevails. As Jesus said to His captors, “This is your hour, and the power of darkness.” Yet, did we notice, at the beginning of our lesson tonight – Jesus knew “all things that should come upon Him.”“The cup which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?”

Peter thought he understood. He never thought that He would be a part of Christ’s suffering.

He drew his sword. He’s gonna fight for Jesus. How bold and how strong and courageous Peter seems to be. Earlier, “Lord, I will never deny you.” And so it seems he will keep that promise, with his sword drawn, and put to use. He’s not afraid to use it. He’s not afraid to cut off an ear in hopes of protecting Christ.

Yet how quickly things change. When Jesus is captured, and hauled away, to the palace of the high priest – Peter follows “afar off”, and later, is spotted and recognized, by a young servant girl. Earlier he’s fighting grown men, who are trained to fight, and now he’s up against a young servant girl. “Art not thou also one of this Man’s disciples? He denied before them all, saying, Woman, I know Him not, neither understand I what thou sayest.” Peter didn’t seem to be afraid of anything earlier, but now he’s afraid of a young girl? Why?

We know what Jesus says, “whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father which is in heaven.” What could be worse than standing before Him on the last day, and having Jesus say, “I don’t you. I never knew you. You didn’t confess to know Me, and now I don’t know you.”

Yet, didn’t Jesus also say, He came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance? Didn’t He also say, whoever comes to Me, I will in no wise cast out?

The time and the detail that God chose to spend on the story of Simon Peter, and his 3 denials, is huge.

Yet tonight’s lesson isn’t about how we can overcome the temptation to deny Christ, by our own strength. Peter was the most bold, the most courageous Confessor of Christ there was.

Yet how unreliable our own feelings, our own reason, our own strength, can be. I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, or come to Him, but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel.

Three times Peter denied, yet, after Jesus had risen, Jesus“saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me? Peter was grieved because He said unto him the third time, Lovest thou Me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.”

Peter denied three times, yet, wasn’t it also three times, that Jesus called Peter back to Him? Three times that Jesus welcomed Peter back into the fold. Why? Because Jesus died for all, rose again, for all, so that whoever believes in Him, will not perish, but have everlasting life.

Christ’s sacrifice was and is enough. He was “stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.”“He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities...and with His stripes we are healed.”