Holy Trinity Sunday – B LSB #’s 507, 388, 822
Text – Acts 2:36
Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made Him both Lord & Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.
Cowardice & Denial
In the yard behind our home is a large oak tree. When the first frost kills the leaves on the other trees, they quickly fall from their branches. Yet, the oak leaves cling to their tree even though they are as dead as all the other leaves on the ground. Then come the sharp winds of winter, & they too are powerless to shake the grip of those dead oak leaves.
In the following months come snow & sleet & ice. Their efforts are equally futile. Once spring arrives, & the sap begins to flow from the roots of the oak tree, the new leaves push forth & the dead leaves finally fall away. The new & living growth prunes away the deadness of the past.
So it is with the Spirit of God who replaces, in you & in me, the works of the flesh with the fruit of the Spirit. The new & living growth caused by our union with Christ prunes away the deadness of our past & our present. As St. Peter preached this sermon there was a lot of deadness in his past to be pruned away by the living growth of the Father’s Spirit.
From Matthew 14: “Peter answered, ‘Lord, if it is You, order me to come to You on the water.’ ‘Come,’ He said. So Peter got out of the boat, walked on the water, & went toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was frightened & started to sink.” (14:28-30a NET)
From Matthew 16: “Peter took Him aside & began to rebuke Him, saying, ‘Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.’ But [Jesus] turned & said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.’” (16:22-23 ESV) From Matthew 26: “After a little while the bystanders came up & said to Peter, ‘Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.’ Then he began to invoke a curse on himself & to swear, ‘I do not know the man.’ And immediately the rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, ‘Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.’ And he went out & wept bitterly.” (26:73-75 ESV)
Cowardice & denial were frequently put on display by Peter. He wore his emotions on his sleeve. One time in Luke 5, he even realizes it: “And when Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus saying, ‘Depart from me Lord, because I am a sinner.’” (5:8 ESV)
In our worldly sense, Peter had opened his mouth & once again made a fool of himself. Upon realizing that, Peter confesses his sin & asks Jesus to leave. Yet, that is exactly when our Lord draws closest to us, when we turn to God & confess that we have sinned. Hopefully, these words from 1 John are familiar:
“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, & the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, God, who is faithful & just, will forgive our sins & cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1:8-9 ESV) In our worldly sense, it is confessing our sins that is foolish. Satan would have us practicing a cowardly denial of the truth so that we suffocate in them.
From God’s perspective, it’s just the opposite. Confess your sins & your heavenly Father will remove them as far as the east is from the west. In the 2nd chapter of Acts that is exactly what Peter is finally preaching with boldness & with authority:
“This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan & foreknowledge of God, you crucified & killed by the hands of lawless men.” (Acts 2:23 ESV)
The cowardice & denial of Peter’s past had been pruned away by the power of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. He was a changed man, living a new life. He’d gone from hiding out in fear to preaching in the name of Jesus that his audience had killed the long-promised Messiah of God. Messiah was the fulfillment of their national purpose & they had turned Him over to the Romans demanding that He be crucified. Still today, it takes tremendous courage & conviction to preach that message to any Jewish audience. The sins of Peter’s past were being pruned away by the living growth brought through the Holy Spirit.
That same Holy Spirit is working in your life, placing the power of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead right before your eyes. If you believe Jesus is your Savior, from your sins, then the life He brings to you is pruning away the deadness of your past & of your present. Jesus is knocking on the door of your heart each & every day of your life to give you life.
For each of us there is plenty of deadness in our past that is stubbornly clinging to us, refusing to drop away. The same is true of our moments & days right now. Our relationship with the Creator of our body & soul is not something that is one & done. In order for you & I to actually be alive that relationship needs to be a continuous one, moment by moment, day by day.
Daily we need the living growth of the Holy Spirit to be flowing through us that the deadness of our past, & of today, might be pruned away. And that is the promise of Pentecost. The flames of fire that appeared on the heads of the disciples were a sign that God’s Spirit was flowing through them & out into the people & into the world around them.
We have that same Spirit flowing through us, giving us life & pruning away the death of our sins. We received that Spirit by the promise of God at our baptism. Two verses after the Epistle reading for today, Peter preaches that answer to his audience:
“And Peter said to them, ‘Repent & be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, & you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you & for your children & for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself.’” Many, in the crowd Peter was preaching to, were not present for, nor directly responsible for the death of Messiah, & yet their response, in many cases, is one of repentance & faith. They realized that their sins were responsible for the death of the Savior, Jesus Christ. We also need to know that we are responsible, due to our actions & our attitudes.
Furthermore, we often do not believe that God has forgiven us these sins & as a result we do not live to spread the wonder of this forgiveness to others. Peter says, “Repent.” Repent of it all &, “...be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (2:38).
His sermon had accomplished the first part. Confronted with the truth of God, his hearers were drawn to repentance. We read how, “They were cut to the heart.”
They did not do this themselves. They did not reach the conclusion by themselves, but the Word of God, the Law of God, worked within them by the Holy Spirit, accusing them, condemning them, & bringing them to repentance. The Law is the Holy Trinity at work.
Because Peter has received & known the righteousness of Christ, he relieves those in the crowd who repent by offering them forgiveness & a new start in baptism with the Holy Spirit. The action here is entirely from God towards us. This is what sets it apart from every religion & philosophy as the Gospel — good news, as opposed religious obligation.
The good news here is that the kingdom is restored because the King Himself is risen. Therefore, all who have faith in Jesus, do not need to fear His reign, but can rejoice in His victory over sin, death & the grave. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful & just & will forgive our sins, & cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn 1:9). Amen.
Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills & everywhere; go tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born! Down in a lowly manger the humble Christ was born; & God sent us salvation that blessed Christmas morn. Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills & everywhere; go tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born! Amen. LSB 388:3.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet