Jesus Failed?

Luke 22:54-62


In our Lenten journey, we have met with and heard from King David, Judas, Pilate, and Malchus, the servant of the High Priest who was present at Jesus’ arrest and who had his right ear cut off by Peter during Jesus’ arrest only to have it healed by Jesus who stopped further violence with a command.


 Today, we meet with Peter


(A scripted conversation by Ted Schroder © 2016 and published by Creative Communications for the Parish was used.)


I saw Jesus failing. And I failed.


(from Week Four: Declaration, from the series At The Crossroads: A Series of Services for Lent by Ted Schroeder, ©2016 Creative Communications for the Parish)


A very provocative statement to make, isn’t it?


I saw Jesus failing…


It’s a statement made in a creative dialog and does not appear in scripture.


That’s good to know Pastor. Jesus never fails.


You’re right, Jesus never fails. He is the perfect and only begotten son of God, as the historical statements of faith declare and as scripture makes clear.


But, Judas thought He failed and betrayed Him.


And Peter, I believe, thought He was failing, and denied Him.


Why? Why did Judas betray Him and why did Peter deny Him?


We do not get the full reasons from the scripture because the focus is not on Judas or Peter during this period of time. In fact, and I think it is often forgotten or not even realized, the focus of the Bible is not on the people in the Bible, like Judas and Peter, but it is God and Christ.


But scripture does give us some clues why people, like Judas and Peter, did what they did.


Matthew, Mark, and John give us the accounts of Judas’ action and dialogue with Jesus. Matthew and Mark’s accounts are very similar while John’s is more extended and has some details that the others do not…


But what is important is that both Judas and Peter, by their actions, one of betrayal and one of denial, believe that Jesus failed them.


And they failed most profoundly when they both refused to stand up for Jesus.


Expectations are at work here. Both men had expectations about what Jesus was going to do. It has been assumed down through the years that they believed, as did many other people, Jesus was going to organize a movement to overthrow the Roman empire and re-establish the Kingdom of Israel just like it was back in David’s day.


After all the prophets of the Old Testament provided numerous statements about what the Messiah would do when He came. Things which Jesus would do such being born in Bethlehem as noted in Micah 5:2


“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,

though you are small among the clans[b] of Judah,

out of you will come for me

one who will be ruler over Israel,

whose origins are from of old,

from ancient times.”


And we only need to recall Acts 1:6, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” spoken by remaining disciples just before Jesus returned to heaven as a reminder that this issue was still on their minds after Jesus’ resurrection.


In fact, it dawned on me as I prepared this message today, that the setting for this question was eerily reminiscent of His time with them the evening He was betrayed.


Let’s quickly read Acts 1:4-9


On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”


Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”


He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”


After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.


Jesus was eating with them…just like that night. He makes a declaration about what is going to happen next: but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

And…Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”


This vision, this hope of what the Messiah was going to do was still alive in their minds and hearts. “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”


Jesus response is in an entirely different direction.


“It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”


Jesus’ words to the remaining disciples was a mission of declaration – about what they had seen and heard – from Jesus Himself – an experience of healing, forgiveness, life change, a re-orientation of the human heart and soul toward God.


The crossroads we find ourselves at today has to do with declaration. We are going to again walk through the painful and devastating moments of Peter’s declaration – of denial and then I am going to share some reasons why Peter denied Jesus.


Our text for this morning is Luke 22:54-62:


Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance.  And when some there had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them.   A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.”

But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said.

A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.”“Man, I am not!” Peter replied.

About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.”

Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed.  The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.


Why did Peter deny Jesus instead of proclaiming who He truly was?


Reason number one – Confusion


I did not watch the Super Bowl this year. But I heard enough about it that it suggests to me that the Patriots worked through the unsettledness of confusion to make that awesome comeback. I have no doubt that a clarity of purpose was worked out in the locker room during half-time to help them stage their comeback.


When a person or group of persons know how to work through the confusion of a high-pressure situation, honed in practice simulations and through hard fought wins, and painful losses, a clarity of what to do next comes through. Teams like the Patriots and Steelers know how to win the big game because they have learned, in part, how to win the big game. And one key way to do that is to know how to win through the pressure situations when everything is going wrong.


Peter did not learn this in the pressure packed moments after Jesus’ arrest. He denied his relationship to Jesus. He did not want to be identified as one of Jesus’ followers. Why?


He was confused.


Let’s think about this for a moment. You assume that Jesus is the Messiah and that He is going to lead Israel in throwing off the rule of the Roman Empire. And you defend Him when one of your own, whom you had issues with, betrays Him, and you. So you swing your sword and He stops you from doing anything else!


What gives, Jesus?


Confusion sets it. A debate in your head heats up…Wha…why…how


Okay, reason number two…


What have we always assumed what about Peter’s denial?


He was what?


Afraid! Afraid to be identified with Jesus. He deeply and passionately denies the connection.


And fear is definitely present here.


Men, have you ever fudged the truth with your wife? Wait, have you ever lied to your wife when you were caught red handed with something or doing something or NOT doing something?


Wives what about you?


The pressure we are under in such situations causes our character flaws to show.


Fear was certainly in play with Peter’s denial.


But what about disappointment? Reason number three.


What if Peter was disappointed in Jesus so much so that he decided that he was not going to admit that he was one of Jesus’ close followers.


A few moments earlier, Peter was swinging a sword and Jesus said, “No more of this!”

Can you imagine what Peter might have been thinking?


What would you think?


“Here is someone who you think has what it takes to make things happen. He is doing amazing things. I am joining his side. I’m hitching up my wagon to his and we are going to go places! He won’t fail me. He won’t let me down.”


And when that let down comes, how do you feel?




And bitter


And resentful.




Can we begin to grasp even a small bit the emotional turmoil Peter was in?


Can we identify with Peter when we have been let down by someone we had put our hope in?


Has God ever let you down?


Don’t be so quick to answer “no.”


None of us has ever felt let down by God, have we?


I have felt let down by God. And I was angry with God.


(Pastor you must never be angry with God! That is wrong!)


Well I have felt let down by God and when I admitted to Him that I had felt let down, God and I got things worked out…and I realized that what God was doing and going to do and it was not what I had wished for, hoped for, expected.


I was wrong. But until I could admit to the Lord Himself that I was disappointed in Him and even angry with Him, I was stuck. The admission of my pain and resentment allowed the Lord to come and take it away and I began to move forward, in God’s will and direction for His mission and purposes…not mine.


Well, as Jesus had said to Peter and the other disciples before His arrest, trial, and crucifixion, He came back from the dead in three days and at some point within the 40 day time frame before His return to heaven, Jesus confronted Peter about that night of denial, in front of another charcoal fire, along a familiar shoreline.


John 21


Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.


Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.


He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”


“No,” they answered.


He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.


Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.


Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.


When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”


“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”


Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”


Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”


He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”


Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”


The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”


Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”


Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.


I think that Peter went back to that first time Jesus said, three years earlier,


“Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon answered and said, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets.” When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break; so they signaled to their partners in the other boat for them to come and help them. And they came and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus’ feet, saying, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!”


And as he both faced and ate with Jesus, the memories of that night came back all over again (if they had really ever left)


“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”


But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”


Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”


There it was…the reality of what did happen…just as Jesus said it would…


Peter, do you love me?


Yeah, Lord you know that I love you…


And Peter would go on to feed the sheep, he would strengthen, after he “turned back,” his brothers…


And he would write, exhort, encourage, declare to believers, decades later


But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.



I guess the best part of my story is that I did not finish my discipleship in tears of failure. Jesus came and found me that day on the beach, after he had risen. He loved me enough to call me back after I had turned my back on him. “Do you love me?” he asked me three times. And he sent me to feed his lambs and sheep. And here is the best part, he calls you back, too. He does not leave us in our failure. He does not turn away. He is there each day with the forgiveness we need to go on one more day, to face one more test, to stand at one more crossroad. And by his power, the power of his Holy Spirit, to be what he wants us to be, what we want to be.

(from Week Four: Declaration, from the series At The Crossroads: A Series of Services for Lent by Ted Schroeder, ©2016 Creative Communications for the Parish)


S8 Do you declare Christ as your savior and Lord today?


Will you declare Him as such tomorrow?


What about on some Friday when the pressure of school or work challenges your faith and values?


We are all Peter.


And Jesus continues to asks to us, in our confusion, fear, disappointment, bitterness, and resentments…


Do you still love me?


Thanks be to God






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