Cornerstone EPC Thursday evening
Franklin, NC 28734 March 29, 2018
“He Meant Well”
Once again, we assemble on Maundy Thursday—on which we remember the night of Jesus’ betrayal. As has been our custom on previous Maundy Thursdays, so again tonight we continue through John 13-17—which narrates the events of that Thursday night so long ago. This year we come to John 13:36-38. We see, in these three verses, that Jesus knows Peter better than Peter knows Peter. From this we rightly infer that Jesus knows our frames as well. Let us hear God’s Word read and expounded once again in this place.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
Jesus, in the verses preceding these (John 13:31-35), tells His eleven remaining disciples that He is with them just a little when longer—and He tells them that they cannot come with Him just now. Then Jesus gives them, and us, a soaring—and at times difficult-to-obey—command to love. Jesus further declares that all people will know that His disciples are His by their love one for another.
This love commands appears for the moment lost on Peter. He, apparently, fixes his attention upon the material about being unable to follow now. Tonight’s text is the dialogue between Peter and Jesus about this. Peter first asks Jesus where He is going, and Jesus replies that where He goes, Peter will come later—but not now.
This reply does not suffice for Peter. Likely he does not have the will to be apart from Jesus, and certainly he thinks he has the ability to stick with Jesus. He declares as much, saying, “Lord, why can I not follow You now? I will lay down my life for You?” Peter means well, but the irony in Jesus’ response is too rich to ignore.
Jesus, solemnly (“Truly, truly,”), tells Peter the truth about himself. Jesus asks, rhetorically, in my view, “Will you lay down your life for Me?” The fact is to the contrary: Peter needs Jesus to lay down His life for him. Then Jesus declares the immediate future for Peter: He will deny Jesus thrice before the rooster crows.
This quiets Peter; we hear not from him again until, at the actual betrayal, he cuts off the high priest’s servant’s ear in John 18:10. Yet all that Jesus said came to pass. Peter did deny his Lord thrice before the rooster crowed. This broke Peter; he went out and wept bitterly over what he had done—and, I suppose, over what he had not done.
Aren’t we, in this sense, just like Peter? Perhaps our failures to live up to our professions are not as spectacular as Peter’s—yet we have them. Either at conversion, or later, we profess grandly to follow Jesus tightly and to glorify Him capably. Then, alas, our performance falls (far) short of our profession. In short, we fail—and, like Peter, we are broken. Even amid this state, beloved, rejoice, for Jesus lay down His life for such finite and fallen folk as Peter and us. He owns us as His—and this despite our moments of faithlessness. He atones for our sin, and He empowers our discipleship and ministry. God restored Peter by the seashore at breakfast one morning (John 21:15-19), and less than fifty days late the Holy Spirit filled Peter and his fellow disciples. Then Peter—yes, the one-time broken, denying Peter—preached in the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit to the conversion of three thousand souls. May the Lord—and, by faith, we humbly trust He will—work similarly in us.
We, like the first disciples of old, have a fortification for our faith, discipleship, and service before us—the sacred Supper of our Lord. Come, let us, as they did so long ago, keep the feast.