We continue with our series called Places of the Passion. Today we walk to a Courtyard in Jerusalem—the Courtyard of a high priest named Caiaphas. In Caiaphas’ courtyard we see guilt—Peter’s guilt and our own. Beyond the courtyard we see grace—grace for Peter and grace for us.
To get the context, we rewind the tape and go back to Gethsemane. “Peter answered him, ‘Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.’ Peter said to him, ‘Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!’”
But we’ve all made that claim. When we got confirmed the pastor asked, “Do you intend to live according to the Word of God, and in faith, word, and deed remain true to Father, Son and Holy Spirit, even to death?” We said, “I do!”
As the events in the courtyard unfold, it’s like watching cracks in a house’s foundation slowly spread. A servant girl comes up to Peter and says, “You were with Jesus the Galilean.” Peter denies it, saying, ‘I don’t know what you mean.’” The first crack.
Peter then goes out to the courtyard’s entrance, when another servant girl sees him. She says to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” Again Peter denies it. Only this time with an oath: “I don’t know the man.” The second crack.
When there are enough cracks, there will always be a collapse. Always!
“After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, ‘Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.’ Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, ‘I don’t know the man.’” We know from first-century documents that the Jews in Galilee spoke a different dialect of Aramaic. It’s like when we hear someone talking who is from the deep South. Peter’s accent betrayed him.
What does Peter do? First comes Peter’s evasive denial. Then comes Peter’s direct denial—on oath. Now comes Peter’s curse. What’s next? The rooster crowed.
For us it happens when we say, “Just one more drink.” Or, “just one more lie.” Or, “just one more fling.” Or, “just one more look.” Or, “just one more game.” Crack. Crack. Crack. But one more leads to one more, and then just one more. When there are enough cracks, there will always be a collapse. Always! Then what? Enter the G-word. The G-word? Guilt!
Guilt turns us into miserable, weary, angry, duplicitous, stressed-out people. Guilt sucks the life right out of us. Grace restores it. Grace? Did someone say grace?
How does that happen? With confession. “Peter went out and wept bitterly.” Peter didn’t numb his guilt. Peter confessed his guilt. Period.
While Peter went outside the courtyard to confess, Jesus went to the cross to die. Jesus doesn’t wait until we get it all together. Jesus doesn’t wait until we overcome our temptations and fight our demons and conquer our sin. In our courtyard, we see guilt. Beyond our courtyard—at the cross—we see grace.
Who preaches the sermon on Pentecost? Peter. Whose sermon converts 3,000 people? Peter. Who writes two books in the New Testament? Peter. Listen closely.
Peter is the Comeback Kid. Comebacks don’t depend on how much we love Jesus. Comebacks depend on how much Jesus loves us.
Comebacks don’t depend on what we do for Jesus. Comebacks depend on what Jesus does for us.
Comebacks don’t depend upon us giving our life for Jesus. Come backs depend on Jesus giving his life for us.
Our story isn’t over when Jesus is in it. Isn’t that great? Our story isn’t over when Jesus is in it. We can all come back from guilt. How? The best G-Word of all. Grace.
Grace is forgiveness, undeserved forgiveness. We all need it, and God freely gives it. Amen.