March 3, 2004: Will You Really Lay Down Your LIfe For Me?

Let us pray: Dear Savior, at times all of us are weak and at times we’re strong. At times our faith clings to You and embraces You no matter what, and other times we doubt, worry, and generally wander off like some straying sheep. Tonight give us Your power and strength so that in those moments of weakness we keep our gaze fastened to You alone. Amen

TEXT: John 13: 38: “Then Jesus answered, ‘Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!’”

Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
Tonight we continue our march to the cross. Jesus is in the upper room with the disciples. Judas has already left to carry out his treacherous betrayal of Christ. Our Savior begins to speak very clearly about what is about to happen. He refers to His upcoming glorification. He talks about the cross. For it is through the cross the we would be saved, God’s plan for our redemption carried out, and ultimately Christ glorified.

Jesus went on to explain that part of the glorification meant He was going away from them to His Father in heaven. This troubled the disciples. Peter spoke up for the whole group with this objection, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” To which Jesus answered:


As was often the case, Peter spoke before thinking it through. He really didn’t grasp the full meaning of his words. But Jesus knew differently. He knew Peter’s weakness and what lay in store for him that night. And then He told Peter, flat out, that not only would Peter not lay down his life for Christ that night, but that he would disown Jesus before the break of dawn. And of course, the Lord was right. Peter disavowed Christ three times that night in the courtyard of the high priest. He feared for his life. And so he denied ever having known Jesus.

Before we point an accusing finger at Peter and pass harsh judgment upon him, we need to look inside our hearts. We need to examine our own lives. “Will you really lay down your life for me?” Does Jesus have a right to ask that question of us? After all, unlike Peter, we haven’t impetuously agreed to die for Him. Or have we? When you were confirmed, you made a confirmation promise to God. You promised Him that you would die before turning your back on Him and walking away. No doubt, some of you were even given as a confirmation verse the famous words of Rev. 2: 10: “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
Jesus made it very clear in His ministry that allegiance to Him was all or nothing.

For example, remember when He tells the disciples: “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”? Those words are clear. Christ wants commitment from us. And that commitment is all or nothing.

But, you might say, “I’ve never been in a situation where I was called on to confess Christ or face death.” And that is precisely the point. Even though we might not have faced deadly opposition to our faith, we still fail to keep our promise to lay down our lives for him. Let’s look at a few examples. Christ owns us body and soul. Everything we have is really His. Our minutes and hours are His. Our money is His. Our possessions belong to Him. Our talents and abilities are His. He gave them to us. And yet, more often than not we give Him leftovers, don’t we? We pay the bills before writing the check for the collection plate. Or, we fail to juggle our schedules so that church worship becomes paramount on our calendars. Or, we forget to let our light shine during the week because we don’t want to risk mocking. Yes, Jesus requires sacrifice. And sacrifice lies behind the meaning of His words: “Will you really lay down your life for me?”


If the story were to end right here, it would be a sad story, a guilt-ridden tale. But, thanks be to God! The story doesn’t end here! For Jesus also inspires sacrifice! His question to Peter, and to us, is not one-sided. For the entire Passion history tells us that Christ does not ask more from us than He was willing to do for us! It’s all about God’s Son becoming sin for us. It’s all about Him being stricken, smitten, and afflicted. It’s all about God enduring the cross, the shame, the scorn, the pain, the death, the grave for us. It’s all about Him giving His all to save us for our failures to embrace loving sacrifice for Him. Indeed, on the cross perhaps His most comforting words are: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

As we consider how unwilling we often are to give up our lives to God and consider His willingness to die for us, maybe we should make His question our own. Let us ask in amazement, “Will you really lay down your life for me?” You get the feeling that the hymnwriter had that very thing in mind when he wrote: “Alas! And did my Savior bleed, and did my Sovereign die? Would he devote that sacred head for such a worm as I?” When we ask Jesus, “Will you really lay down your life for me?” the answer is: Yes! Yes! Yes! He loves us in spite of our sinfulness, in spite of our stinginess, and in spite of our selfishness. He laid down His life for you in order to make you pure, spotless, clean, and holy in God’s sight!

Now that you know this, how will you respond? Do you want to simply ignore Him? Do you want to deny Him? Or, like Paul will “offer your bodies as living sacrifices to God?” The hymnwriter had some good ideas. Especially when he wrote: “Thus might I hide my blushing face while his dear cross appears, dissolve my heart in thankfulness, and melt mine eyes to tears.” Lent is all about tears of joy. It is all about a debt of love we can never repay to Christ. It is all about Him paying our debt on the cross.

Will you really lay down your life for me? Now, you know the question and you also know the answer: “Yes, as God gives me strength!” And since our strength lies in Christ alone, “I can do all things, through Him who gives me strength.” Amen.