Sermon for Sunday, September 27th, 2020 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)
Old Testament reading:
[Mic 5:1-6 ESV] 1 Now muster your troops, O daughter of troops; siege is laid against us; with a rod they strike the judge of Israel on the cheek. 2 But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. 3 Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has given birth; then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel. 4 And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. 5 And he shall be their peace. When the Assyrian comes into our land and treads in our palaces, then we will raise against him seven shepherds and eight princes of men; 6 they shall shepherd the land of Assyria with the sword, and the land of Nimrod at its entrances; and he shall deliver us from the Assyrian when he comes into our land and treads within our border.
New Testament reading:
[1Co 10:1-13 ESV] 1 For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. 6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” 8 We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. 9 We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
[Mar 14:66-72 ESV] 66 And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, 67 and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” 68 But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway and the rooster crowed. 69 And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” 70 But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” 71 But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” 72 And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.
[Jhn 18:15-27 ESV] 15 Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he entered with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, 16 but Peter stood outside at the door. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the servant girl who kept watch at the door, and brought Peter in. 17 The servant girl at the door said to Peter, “You also are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” 18 Now the servants and officers had made a charcoal fire, because it was cold, and they were standing and warming themselves. Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself. 19 The high priest then questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. 20 Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. 21 Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me what I said to them; they know what I said.” 22 When he had said these things, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If what I said is wrong, bear witness about the wrong; but if what I said is right, why do you strike me?” 24 Annas then sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest. 25 Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. So they said to him, “You also are not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” 26 One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” 27 Peter again denied it, and at once a rooster crowed.
In this passage we have six individuals mentioned, each for important reasons. There is Annas and Caiaphas, Simon Peter and “the other disciple,” a “servant girl,” and of course Jesus himself.
Annas is mostly overshadowed by his son-in-law Caiaphas. Annas had once himself been the high priest. But at the time of Jesus’ trial Caiaphas now held that title. So it is interesting that the band of soldiers goes first to Annas, not Caiaphas who is the high priest. Perhaps the older man was still seen as the true authority in some fashion. In fact, it seems that in this passage Annas himself is even referred to as the high priest, as he is also in the book of Acts (4:6). Annas had been deposed from his office by a Roman governor but may have remained the legitimate high priest in the eyes of the Jews.
So there are two that are called the high priest, Annas and Caiaphas. Thus we have an interesting parallel in that there are two religion figures that question Jesus and then two government officials who do likewise, Herod and Pontius Pilate. There is shared (and perhaps confused) leadership both in the religious and secular realm.
After Annas questions Jesus, he send him to Caiaphas. One might imagine Annas says “I don’t want to deal with this – the high-priest is technically Caiaphas – let him handle it.”
The text of our passage is challenging to figure out – is the questioning of the high-priest in verses 19-23 that of Annas or Caiaphas? Each has its proponents. But, verse 24 seems to be the clincher. “Annas then sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.” So the questioning came from Annas and then Jesus was sent forward.
We then have no words of Caiaphas but that which was noted in the last passage – John 18:13 – “It was Caiaphas who had advised the Jews that it would be expedient that one man should die for the people.” And this isn’t even a quote of his words, just a summary of his position. So Caiaphas remains a rather hidden figure.
The questioning we have recorded is that of Annas.
III. Simon Peter
While the questioning takes place, Simon Peter is standing outside at the door. What happens here with Peter is more well known in the other Gospels where it is said he denied Christ three times and then the rooster crowed.
Now, John expects that his readers are already familiar with those other gospels. And so he doesn’t need to repeat everything that they have said.
The way our passage is broken down it might appear that there are only two denials from Peter. But if you look more carefully you will find three:
First, the question comes to him from the servant girl asking “You also are not one of this man’s disciples are you? And Peter says “I am not.” (verse 17)
Then, secondly, the same question comes from the officers. “You also are not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” (verse 25)
And then we have a third ask the question. This is from “one of the servants of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off.” And he asked “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” Peter again denied it and at once a rooster crowed.
In Mark’s Gospel we read: And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.
Peter then is the example of one who denied Jesus Christ. And we’ll get back to him shortly. But let’s look also at another character in this account. “The other disciple.”
IV. The Other Disciple
The chief question that arises about this “other disciple” is “who was he?”
Sometimes John, the author of this Gospel plus the letters of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd John will be somewhat shy on his own promotion and identity. Rather than naming himself he’ll speak of “the disciple who Jesus loved.” And that was John the apostle. But here, there is good reason to this this “other disciple” is not in fact John.
Verse 16 tells us that this “other disciple” was “known to the high priest.” John, the son of Zebedee, was just a fisherman. And from Galilee. What would the high priest have to do with him?
It is thought more likely that this “other disciple” is an insider to the Jewish leadership. It may be Nicodemus. Or maybe even Joseph of Arimathea. But the identity is not critical for us to know, or God would have provided it in the text.
While Simon Peter takes the brunt of the blame in this passage, we cannot overlook the “other disciple.” While Peter explicitly denies Jesus Christ three times, the “other disciple” isn’t exactly promoting the faith. He is quiet, probably scared to confess faith in Jesus or to be known openly.
In any case, both Peter and the “other disciple” don’t want to be known as Christians for fear of man. They are keeping their commitments and words secret. This is to be strongly contrasted with Jesus Christ who, as the text says “spoke openly.”
And that, which has taken me this far into the sermon to reach, is the central point that I want to emphasize today. Jesus spoken openly.
Before we discuss this point, let us for the sake of thoroughness mention the one other person in this account. The servant girl.
V. The servant girl.
There is not much to say about her. But it might be noticed that she is loyal to her boss, the high priest. And this contrasts with Peter’s quick denials.
VI. Jesus Christ
So we’ve noted these various persons in the account. Annas, Caiaphas, Simon Peter, the “other disciple,” and “the servant girl.” But it is almost always a mistake to think that a passage is about any other than Jesus Christ. He is truly the center and focus of this passage as well.
Jesus spoke openly to the world, and neither Peter nor the other disciple would even speak up for Jesus!
But Jesus has no fear of man, and nothing to hide. He committed no sin.
Christ spoke openly. As we do in His church. This is not gnosticism. There are no secrets. We don’t have levels of Christianity as the Masons do or as the Scientologists do. You are not a 23rd degree Mason or a 12th level Scientology wizard. You and I are all Christians period. That is enough for us, and what a great honor it is to bear the name of our savior, Jesus Christ. Our teachings are open and known to all who pick up a Bible.
Jesus spoke openly so that all who are elect to be children of God shall hear and come to faith. And Jesus spoke openly so that all who reject him and his Word all the more deserve the wrath of God that they bring upon themselves.
Today many reject the word of God not so much in that they consciously have considered his teachings and have rejected them, but that they have not even read the Scriptures. The “practical atheist” lives as if God did not exist and as if Jesus did not speak openly. They say that God, if He exists, has not made himself known to them. But they’ve rejected the word of God revealed in Jesus Christ which He did speak openly. There is a desire to hear from God, and here it is! God has spoken. Openly.
And Jesus Christ spoke not only in word but in deed. The words that he spoke are of utmost importance, and that which he did is also of the greatest importance.
Here, as Jesus has spoken openly, so his death on the cross will be public for all to see. The people will known that he is Lord. The skies will go dark on the day he is crucified. And on the third day he will rise again proving as true all that he had spoken.
Among the words of Jesus are the words of salvation for sinners like Simon Peter, and the other disciple, and you and me.
We all sin and fall short of the glory of God.
Even Simon Peter, that great apostle of the Lord. He sinned. He denied Christ three times!
But Christ’s salvation is greater than sin.
Perhaps you have denied Christ more than three times. And it is a sad reality that we are such sinners. We deny Christ in our actions and in our words on a frequent basis. And we feel sick in this sin.
But Christ has forgiven our sins as he has forgiven Peter and the other disciple (assuming it is Nicodemus who I’ve argued in a previous sermon came to faith in Jesus) and all those who are his, called according to the purpose of God.
By no means am I saying that our denials of Christ are trivial or insignificant. Our sin is terrible and a great weight upon our shoulders. But there is no weigh that Christ cannot bear upon himself.
One of my favorite stories goes like this. At the Ford factory in Detroit Michigan a worker made a terrible mistake and it shut down the entire assembly line. When that man was back at work the next day, someone asked Henry Ford “Why have you not fired him?” And Ford said, “Because I just spent a million dollars training him.”
A mistake like this burns in the conscience and memory. And denying the Lord must have forever been on Peter’s conscience.
But even more on his mind must have been how great the Lord is in giving him salvation nonetheless.
God spend far more than a million dollars of the salvation of his people. He sent his only begotten son to give his life for the redemption of sinners.
We know this and we believe this because Christ spoke openly of God’s ways and died, was buried, and rose again for many to see.
And so we cannot hide from these truths of God which Christ openly presented to us. Nor would we want to. For they are our only hope.
Praise the Lord that He has openly spoken and given us the revelation of His son in the Scriptures that we may have the hope of eternal life in his name. Amen.