Peter Denies Jesus (Matthew Sermon 143 of 151)
May 12, 2013 | Andy Davis
The Power of Sin, Temptation, Grace, Forgiveness, Indwelling Sin
Well, you heard the text that Blake just read, and as we come to this account of Peter's denial of Jesus, we come to one of the saddest and yet one of the most hopeful and helpful stories in the gospel of Matthew. We have the story of the devastating fall of one of the greatest leaders the church has ever known. It's devastating because it shows us just how far sin can take us. The shamefulness of the details make this story exceedingly poignant for us.
We can ask these questions: How can such a mighty follower of Christ as Simon Peter was fall so far as, in a short amount of time, to be calling down curses on himself if he ever heard of Jesus, if he knew Jesus - how can that happen? How can sin, how can temptation be that powerful? How can it be that effective? It is surpassingly sad that one of Jesus' best friends in the world could not summon any courage or loyalty or friendship to stand with Jesus in his time of need. How can we be this bad? How can we sin this greatly? That's the question, those are the questions that just flow from this text for me.
Jesus had called on his followers to be willing to die in this world, just as he would die. After Peter had rebuked Jesus for predicting his own death on the cross, Jesus had warned his disciples in this way, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good would it be for a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?” And so, after hearing all that, all that careful training, and so for years from Jesus, this is what Peter did, loving his own life and loving and cherishing his own soul and his life in this world and not being concerned about his relationship with Christ.
Later in the book of Revelation, Revelation 12:11, it speaks of the followers of Jesus as they fought as they battled and defeated Satan. It says, “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” Well, that was them, that wasn't Peter on this particular dark night. Peter loved his life and this world so much that he turned his back on Jesus and denied him three times. It's a devastating denial from one who was so close and so elevated by the Lord.
But yet, but yet there is grace for sinners like Peter, and therefore there's grace for sinners like us. How readily could each one of us be disqualified from serving Christ? How readily could we be disqualified from service to Christ? And that's why this account is so hopeful as well, we see the incredible grace of God, the grace of Jesus in rescuing Peter from the clutches of sin and temptation. The true Peter, the true Peter was not the one who denied Jesus, that's not who he really was but the one who boldly proclaimed Christ by the power of the spirit on the day of Pentecost and every day thereafter, that's who he is now, and that's who he will be for all eternity. What was going on that night is he was masquerading as an unbeliever out of cowardice and fear, he was masquerading as a worldling. And the incredible grace of God rescued Peter and will rescue each one of us, as true followers of Christ, from that masquerade.
The Downward Journey of Sin: Three Steps to Cursed Misery
Remember the Context
So let's look at it carefully, this downward journey of sin, three steps to cursed misery. Let's remember the context. First of all, we're focusing tonight or today on Peter. We're focusing on him, the leader of the twelve. In every list of the twelve apostles, Peter was always named first, he seems to have been the leader of the twelve. In many encounters throughout Jesus' life with the apostles, it was Peter who would speak for all of them. For example, in Caesarea Philippi, when Jesus asked his disciples “What about you, who do you say that I am?” It was Peter who spoke up and he said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you Simon, son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.” We'll come back to that passage later. Peter was perhaps the key leader among all of Jesus' followers.
Now, in the flow, in Matthew chapter 26, we remember Peter's prideful boast. In verses 31 through 33 of the same chapter, Jesus told them, “‘This very night, you will all fall away on account of me. For it is written “I will strike the shepherd and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.” But after I have risen, I'll go ahead of you in Galilee.’ Peter replied, ‘Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.’” I think that as I mentioned when I preach through it was one of the most repulsive statements ever made by a true follower of Jesus Christ, arrogant, boastful, prideful. But that was the same night. Then Jesus made that plain prediction, “I tell you the truth, this very night before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And Peter's prideful answer at that point, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.”
Later in that evening, we have the account in Gethsemane of Peter's prayerlessness. Jesus had taken aside Peter, James, and John, as he frequently did, to be with him in his time of need in Gethsemane in prayer. He wanted them to keep watch with him, but he comes back after a short time and finds them asleep. And he singles out Peter for the statement, “‘Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?’ he asked Peter. ‘Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation, the spirit is willing, but the body is weak.’” But this happened repeatedly that evening. He would come back and again find them sleeping and he'd come back a third time and again, they were still sleeping. “Are you still sleeping and resting” he said to them, “Behold, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” So we have that account of Peter's prayerlessness.
We also have the account, don't turn there, but in John 18, we have a fuller account of Jesus' arrest and how Jesus orchestrated the arrest so that he could provide a way of escape for the twelve so that they could run away at that particular time, 'cause it was not time for them to be tested in that way, facing their own deaths, it wasn't time for them to lay down their lives as martyrs.
And so he orchestrates his arrest there in John 18, he forces the arresting band there to state their orders, “Who are you looking for?” “Jesus of Nazareth,” they say, Jesus says, “I am.” They all draw back and fall to the ground. Then Jesus asked them a second time, “Who is it you want?” And they say a second time, “Jesus of Nazareth,” so they've said out of their own mouth their marching orders: “We're here to get Jesus of Nazareth.” Then Jesus says in John 18:8, “I have told you that I am. If you're looking for me, then let these men go.” “This happened,” this is John 18:9, “This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: ‘I have not lost one of all those you have given me.’” There are theological depths in that statement I can't plumb, but basically it was beyond what they could handle spiritually to be arrested at that time. Jesus artfully crafts a way of escape for them all to run away and make it through the night. It was not time for them to be arrested.
But Peter wouldn't stay in that place of safety, he wouldn't stay where it was safe and secure. Instead, he's the one that very night who drew his sword and wanted to fight all those soldiers. He then ran away, but then did a U-turn, and then comes back and starts following at a distance, as we saw, we briefly mentioned last time, and he enters the courtyard. What was he doing there? He should have been home praying and trembling and hiding in his house or something like that, it was not time for him to be arrested, he couldn't handle it. But he thought he could and I don't know what his motives were, maybe pride, maybe he wanted to live up to his boast. We don't really know, but there he is in the courtyard.
Peter and Jesus Clearly Contrasted
And there's a clear contrast here as we begin our account with Jesus. Jesus was arrested, verse 68, verse 69 begins with the word “but.” “But Peter was sitting out in the courtyard.” So we have a contrast between Jesus and Peter, and again, in John's gospel, this is much clearer because John interweaves Jesus' trial and Peter's denial. You have different acts that are going on; meanwhile at the trial, meanwhile back at the denial, here at the trial, back at the denial. And so it's a clear contrast you have set up between Jesus' courage and his beauty and his strength and his faithfulness to his Father, and Peter in his sinfulness. And so we have this account of Peter as he denies the Lord.
Harmonizing the Denial Accounts
Now, all four Gospels make it clear that the denial begins with a simple question from a slave girl there in the courtyard. Verse 69, it says, “Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard and a servant girl came to him. ‘You also were with Jesus of Galilee,’ she said.” Isn't it incredible how temptation works? Peter is there earlier that evening drawing his sword and ready to take on at least 600 Roman soldiers but he can't handle a simple query from a slave girl at the door. So I think he was all buttressed and ready for the temptation coming this way and it ends up coming in through the side. Temptation is devious, and it's tricky, sin is wicked, it doesn't come the way we expect, it doesn't come in the manner we expect. I also think the fact that in Matthew two of the denials come in the presence of slave girls heightens the cowardice of Peter, he wasn't being directly threatened at that moment with torture and arrest, and he's still crumbling in front of these girls.
Denial #1: “I don’t know what you’re talking about!”
And so the denial begins in verse 70, he denied it before them all. “I don't know what you're talking about,” he says. So there's a very public denial, it was a slave girl that brought up the question, but he's there in front of the whole group, and he's denying it in front of them all. It's a simple denial, it doesn't go very deep. He just says, “I don't know what you're talking about.” But it's very public as he does it in front of them all, and this is the first devastating step on a downward, very dark journey that he's gonna take, and that's the way it is with sin, it always begins small and gets bigger and bigger. It metastasizes, it doesn't stay the same. Like a tumor it just keeps getting worse and worse. And so we come to denial number two.
Denial #2: “I don’t know the man!”
Verses 71 and 72, “Then he went to the gateway where another girl saw him and said to the people there, ‘This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.’ He denied it again with an oath, ‘I don't know the man.’” Peter is moving around in that courtyard, John says he's warming his hands by a fire. We're all wondering what he's doing there, he needs to get out of there. There's nothing good that can come from being there surrounded by the enemies of Jesus with his hands warm, but his heart colder and colder toward Jesus.
The second servant girl spreads her accusation around, so the watching crowd is listening, this man was with Jesus of Nazareth, but now Peter's denial gets to a whole different level. He adds an oath, some kind of a swearing that he does here, he swears an oath, and then he simply lies, “I don't know this man.” He distances himself as much as possible from Jesus.
Now, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus had commanded his followers concerning oaths, did you remember that? He said “Do not swear at all: either by heaven for it is God's throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no,’ ‘no;’ anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” But here's Peter saying something like this, “I swear by the gold of the temple,” or “I swear by God's throne above - I don't know this man!”
And by the way, do you see at this point how completely alone Jesus is as he faces his trial. This was arguably Jesus' best friend in the world. He is physically close, he could come forward and give testimony to Jesus, but he won't do it, he will not do it. He's already made up his mind, he is not going to say a word in reference to Jesus. Now Jesus said this would happen. In John 16:32, Jesus said, “A time is coming and has come when you will be scattered each to his own home. You will leave me all alone.” It's profound when you think about it, that you're gonna leave me completely alone. You would think after three years of friendship, there would be some loyalty, there would be some courage or willingness to sacrifice for a friend - indeed the greatest friend that's ever lived - but none of them would do it, Peter would not do it.
Denial #3: Calling down curses on himself and swearing… “I don’t know the man!”
And so we come to the third denial which is the worst of all. In verses 73 and 74, “After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, ‘Surely you are one of them for your accent gives you away.’ Then he began to call down curses on himself, and he swore to them, ‘I don't know the man.’” So we went from an oath to a curse, the final act of this tragedy brings us to new low levels of disgrace.
Peter's accent was one of a Galilean, and he couldn't escape it, they knew he was from Galilee, they could tell by the way he was speaking. And it seems like the whole group is on him now, you can imagine a wolfpack and there's some blood in the snow or something like that, and they are growling and they're ready, they're focused on him, it's gotten worse and worse now. And so his earlier statements, he can't stick to that, he has to do something more extravagant, more extreme, he's under pressure. Again, he's masquerading, he is not on the outside what he truly is on the inside, but he's doing it because of the pressure that's being put on him, the world is squeezing him into its molds.
And so the oath that he just swore apparently wasn't enough, now he needs to go to the next level and he needs to call down curses on himself. Something like this: “May Almighty God strike me dead if I even know this man.” Think of the curses of the Old Testament, Deuteronomy 28. “May the Lord send on me curses and confusion and rebuke if I ever heard of Jesus. May the Lord destroy me and bring me to sudden ruin if I ever heard the name of Jesus. May the Lord plague me with diseases, and may I have crop failure, and may I never catch another fish, if I ever heard of Jesus.” Do you see how far Peter has fallen at this point, how low it's gotten. So what is the significance of all this?
The Significance of Peter’s Denials
What's the significance of Peter's denials? Well, let's understand who Peter was. We've already talked about it briefly that he was called, first of all, out of all of the disciples to be one of the twelve, Jesus spent the night praying on a mountain, and then he comes down and he chooses out the twelve. And they were chosen among all his disciples to be with him and to be eyewitnesses. I look on them like little video recorder recording devices, just see what he said and did, and then later the spirit would bring to mind everything that he did and said, and they would be able to write the gospels and they would be able to write the New Testament and based on that, the world was gonna be saved, based on their eye witness testimony. That's what these twelve were to do. Paul says in Ephesians that the church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.
He was one of the twelve, but not only was he one of the twelve, he was one of the inner circle of the twelve, he was one of the inner three; Peter, James, and John were Jesus' closest friends. And he was the leader, even of the three, as I said, in all of the listing of the apostles, he was the primary apostle, the first leader.
And it gets even worse than that. God specifically revealed Jesus to this man in a very powerful way. As we already mentioned, at Caesarea Philippi, he said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said, “Blessed are you.” Oh, it's painful when you think about curses he's calling down on myself. Jesus said, “Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.” The Heavenly Father specifically revealed Jesus to Peter, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
But that wasn't the only time. In the very next chapter, in Matthew 17, Peter, James and John were selected to accompany Jesus up to the top of the Mount of Transfiguration, and there he was transformed before the three of them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. And a bright cloud enveloped them. And a voice came from the cloud, “This is my Son whom I love, with him I am well pleased. Listen to him.” And Peter would later write about that, he wrote in 1 Peter, he said, “We ourselves were eyewitnesses of his majesty, for we received honor and glory from God the Father on the sacred mountain, and we were eyewitnesses of it.” And so twice in a very powerful way, God had revealed Jesus to Peter. And that's what makes this so devastating.
The purpose of the apostles was to take that revelation that they had of Jesus and proclaim it to the world. “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. But how can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in one of whom they've never heard, and how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent?” The word “apostle” just comes from the Greek word meaning “sent ones,” they were gonna be the ones sent out into the world to preach the gospel so that sinners could be saved, and now here's the leader of them saying, “I've never heard of Jesus, never heard of him.” This is huge in redemptive history. Faith comes by hearing, and to have this key link that the rest of us who will never have seen Jesus - Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have heard - to have the key link, the apostles, say “I've never heard of Jesus.” We don't get saved without their ministry. So this is huge.
Peter had made those promises. “Even if all fall away in account of you, I never will.”
Well, what motivated all this? It was his fear, he was afraid of what would happen to him in this world, he was afraid of death. He was afraid of reprisals, he was afraid of suffering and death, he loved his life in this world too much at that moment. And is there any person in this room who can't relate to that? Is there anyone in this room who can't say, “You know, I've done that, I've done that, I've loved my life too much in this world, I did not at that moment or this moment or the other time deny myself and take up my cross and follow Jesus. I didn't testify clearly to Jesus at that moment,” is there any one of us who is willing to say, “Hey, I would never do something like this”?
And that's what makes this story so powerful. Jesus said, “The one who loves his life will lose it, but the one who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” That's one of the hardest battles there is in this world, is to learn to hate your life in this world and live for Jesus, to live openly for Jesus and not worry about the reprisals or the things that are gonna come to you if you serve Jesus. But it's so hard for us to do. It's all about faith. Walking by faith, not by sight.
Jesus said, “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. So if you're willing to hate your life in this world, you're willing to follow me,” said Jesus, “I'll honor you, I'll honor you, but you have to believe in that by faith, you can't see it in this world, the world's gonna dishonor you.” And there is a terrifying sentence on all of this coming from Jesus himself. In Mark 8:38, “He said, ‘If anyone is ashamed of me, and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels.’” I don't want Jesus ashamed of me, and yet I'm so strongly tempted to be ashamed of him. And I think that's what was going on with Peter that night.
Peter, at this point has hit the bottom of his life. I think if you were to talk to Peter right before he died say, what was the worst part of your life? What was the lowest moment? He would say “This was it, right here, this night, this point right here, when I was calling down curses on myself there outside where Jesus was being tried. That was the low point for me.” But praise be to God that we have a Good Shepherd who doesn't let us go, but leaves the 99 on the hills and goes to look for the one that wanders off. That's the nature of our Good Shepherd. He's not going to give up on us, he's gonna go back, and he's going to get us like the wandering sheep we are, and he's gonna pick us up and put us on his shoulders and bring us back.
The Journey Back Begins with Pain
The Rooster Crows and Jesus Looks
But my next point is the journey back is filled with pain, it's filled with pain, it's just the way it is. The only way you can come back from this kind of sin is to hurt, and so we see it in the account, the rooster crows at that moment. After the third denial, the rooster crows. Look at verse 74-75, “Immediately a rooster crowed. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: ‘Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.’”
Now, to make this even more painful, if you bring in Luke's testimony, at that particular moment, we don't necessarily know how, but at that particular moment, Jesus was able to look directly at Peter as the rooster was crowing. What do you think that felt like? Now, we know that Jesus' trial in front of the Jewish authorities had three phases: Annas and Caiaphas, the council, and so he was, I think just being transferred from one phase to the next and providentially everything just lined up. Isn't it amazing how those kinds of things happen? Everything just lines up. The rooster crows and Jesus is able to get Peter's attention. And just look at him. Luke 22:61, “The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken.” You see, that's how it works.
So this is, friends, this is all about pain at this particular moment, pain, we were listening as we drove in this morning to a Sovereign Grace song called “The Look” and “The Look,” actually Sovereign Grace did a remake of a John Newton song. John Newton was the one who wrote “Amazing Grace.” In 1779, he wrote a song entitled, “I Saw a Man Hanging on a Tree, and Sovereign Grace redid it in a song called “The Look.” And this is what it says: “I saw one hanging on a tree in agony and blood, who fixed his loving eyes on me, as near the cross I stood. And never till my dying breath will I forget that look. It seemed to charge me with his death, though not a word, he spoke. A second look he gave, which said, ‘I freely all forgive, this blood is for your ransom paid, I die that you may live.’ Thus, while his death, my sin displays in all its blackest hue, such is the mystery of grace, it seals my pardon too.” And I think that Peter, till his dying day, never forgot that look forever etched upon his mind, as the song said, he would remember what that look felt like.
So the rooster crowing and the look from Jesus were two very painful things. Jesus had programmed Peter's mind so that he would remember. He spoke these specific words. What an odd thing to mention a rooster, I mean, think about that. “You're going to disown me.” “I would never disown you.” “Well, you really are gonna disown me, period. Let's get on to the next topic.” He doesn't say that, he says, “Before the rooster crows.” Why does he do that? Because he's laying his word down in Peter's mind so that he can reclaim him when the time comes, so he can restore him when the time comes. So memorize scripture, listen carefully to this sermon, feed your hearts with scripture, so that God has some hooks to bring you back if ever you should stray.
And so he remembered the word that Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And then he leaves, he gets out of there, that's a key statement, he shouldn't have been here to begin with, it's a tempting situation, a forum of temptation. He was in over his head and the rooster is crowing and the Lord's look. And isn't it beautiful how God sovereignly orchestrated a way out? Here's this pack of wolves sniffing blood, and they just let him walk away. But they did, and so the Lord orchestrated his escape really for the second time that evening.
And then he went outside and wept bitterly. Wept, he just wept. Matthew adds the word “bitterly,” so it wasn't just any kind of weeping, I was weeping that came from deep inside the heart, it was an agony of heart.
Lessons from Peter’s Denials
The Greatness of Christ’s Perfect Character
So what lessons can we take from this? This is just the account. There are various lessons we should take from this account. First, let us all just stand in awe and wonder at the greatness of the character of Jesus Christ by simple contrast. This, we could argue, is one of the best men that ever lived, Peter, I mean, and look at what temptation did to him. Look at what temptation did to him.
But temptation never corrupted Jesus. He was tempted in every way, just as we are, yet was without sin. He stood before his judges unafraid and made the good confession, it says in 1 Timothy, so just stand in awe of the character of Jesus, the greatness of Christ. Every time I come here to preach, my desire is that you would think great thoughts of Jesus Christ. So think great thoughts of his character by contrast with Peter.
The Universality and Depth of Sin
Secondly, look again at the universality and the depth of sin, it's amazing that we even have this account at all. Peter was in the midst of his ministry when this gospel was written. Mark's gospel, many people think, comes directly from Peter, that Peter gave it to Mark, maybe as he was on trial for his life. So this might be read almost as his confession, the details of it. The weeping bitterly, probably, he did alone.
And so we have this story because the Bible is extremely honest with us about the failings of its great men and women, it's honest about this one fact: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Ecclesiastes 7:20, “There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.” There's no one like that. Romans 7, as the apostle Paul put it, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, and what I hate, I do.”
So how do you see yourself in the story of Peter, do you see yourself in him? Do you see yourself as someone who could easily deny Jesus if the Satanic pressures, diabolical, clever temptations and pressures were around you, they would force this kind of denial from you. Do you see yourself there? I sure hope so. Because the Bible says, “If anyone thinks he stands, take heed, lest he fall.” I'll come back to that verse in a few minutes, but you need to see yourself in Peter, you need to know that you're just like him. And frankly, it'd be good if you are were honest about how you are in witnessing, sharing your faith out in the world, and say, “I've actually played this scene again and again, more than more times than I can possibly recount, I've in some way, refrained from speaking for Christ when I knew that the spirit was prompting me.”
Do you see yourself here? Do you have actual sins to confess to the Lord? Then confess them. The final word in this sermon is grace not sin. Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more. So confess, he knows you already. You just don't know it yourself. So confess, say, “Lord, I have played Peter's role again and again, I don't wanna do that anymore. Please forgive me, oh Lord.”
We need to be willing to suffer with Jesus. It says in Romans 8:17, “If we are children, then we are heirs - heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ - if indeed we share in his sufferings.” Does that word, “if” bother you at all? That it challenges me. Okay, I'm an heir if I suffer, if I share in Christ's sufferings, then I'm an heir. Or 2 Timothy 2, “Here's a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we disown him, he will also disown us.” What happened to that in the case of Peter? Well, let's go to the next phrase, “If we are faithless, he will remain faithful for he cannot disown himself.” So which is it? He disowned him, but Christ was faithful and didn't disown himself and stayed faithful to Peter.
The Sufficiency of the Cross for Our Sins
Thirdly, notice the sufficiency of the cross for all of our sins. We haven't gotten to the cross yet. It's in the very next chapter, we're coming to it, but it is the shed blood of Jesus alone that restores sinners like Peter and like you and me. Every one of us is a sinner. There's none better than another when it comes to the issue of the cross and judgment day. All of us need a Savior, and the blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross is sufficient for sins like this. Trust in him. Call on the name of the Lord for the salvation of your souls.
If you are outside of Christ, if you are lost right now, if you've been invited here by a friend or wandered in here off the street, or if you just know you're lost, you know you're on the outside, you've been playing a game, you've been masquerading as a Christian. Then this moment is for you. Don't leave this place unregenerate. Call on the name of the Lord. Look to Christ crucified, his shed blood is enough for sins like this, it's infinitely ample for sins like this. Trust in him. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
The Importance of Prayer
Fourthly, the importance of prayer. The importance of prayer. I'm gonna talk about it negatively and then positively, first of all, the importance of prayerlessness. Shall we talk about that? Do you all think, as I do, that Peter should have spent his time in the garden of Gethsemane better? “But I have to sleep, I'm so tired.” No, you have to pray. I guarantee in your Christian life, there will be some times where you are overwhelmed with fatigue, but you still need to pray and not sleep. We see the danger of prayerlessness, and Jesus specifically warned him about it. He specifically spoke to him about it. He said, “Watch and pray, so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” He specifically warned him.
Well, let him specifically warn you now about prayerlessness, are you praying? Are you praying as you should? We're all gonna say, “No, I'm not,” not with the fervency, not the amount, but I know I'm guilty from time to time, even from day to day of prayerlessness. Well, watch and pray so that you won't fall into temptation. Look what happened to Peter, be warned about prayerlessness, but I have an even better story to tell on prayer. And it doesn't have to do with Peter's prayerlessness, it has to do with Jesus our high priest’s prayer for him. Do you remember that?
As we've talked about before in Luke 22, “Simon Simon, Satan has demanded to sift you, like wheat, but I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail, and after you have turned back then strengthen your brothers.” Isn't it comforting to you like it is to me? To know that we have a great high priest who's at the right hand of God and is always living to intercede for us. And in that way, he is able to save us to the uttermost. He will never stop praying that your faith will not fail, and it won't if you're a genuine child of God, you could go through some horrible circumstances like this, and your faith will not fail. So the importance of prayer.
The Need for Constant Vigilance
Fifthly, the need for constant vigilance. I said I'd mention it in a minute or two, you need to be vigilant constantly. Sin is more devious, more powerful; temptation is more alluring than you can imagine, and it's gonna come at you in an angle and in a way that you aren't aware of. You're gonna be ready in the front, it's gonna come in through the side door. In this case, it was a little slave girl that he didn't even know she was talking to him, probably, when he walked by her, and pretty soon he's saying, “I don't know what you're talking about,” and he's on a slippery slope. So be wise concerning Satan's clever devices to draw you into sin.
And so 1 Corinthians 10:12, “Therefore whoever thinks he stands must be careful not to fall!” Walk moment by moment in total dependence on Christ and in constant awareness of your own weaknesses and the power of the world, the flesh and the devil. Never underestimate them. They come at you as flaming arrows, and only by the shield of faith and by the power of Christ can you resist.
The Painfulness of Repentance
Sixth, the painfulness of repentance. If you're in sin, it's going to be a painful journey back. Don't try to take the shortcut, the private jet flight, you know, skipping all the journey on the ground. There is no shortcut on this, the disease of sin has a very painful cure, genuine heartfelt, repentance and transformation does not come easily.
The shock of the rooster's crowing of Jesus looking at him, and all of that began a work of pain that I think at that moment actually started to increase more and more. I think he felt more pain, however many minutes later when he was weeping bitterly, than when Jesus first looked at him. It starts to roll on him. It's interesting in Mark 14:72, it says this, “Immediately a rooster crowed a second time, and Peter remembered when Jesus had spoken the word to him, ‘Before the rooster crows twice, you will disown me three times.’” - Listen to this - “When he thought about it, he began to weep.” It's an interesting little addition in Mark, “when he thought about it,” that's when he started to weep. The Greek word there implies a careful reflection, going over it again and again, something like this, “How could I have done this? How could I have denied him? I can't believe this happened, but he warned me that it would happen” and you're going over this, and then the tears start to flow. Deep sadness and bitterness, and with it comes weeping.
And that bitterness would be deep and profound and lasting. The pain of restoration still wasn't over, even after he got done weeping bitterly. You can imagine how he must have felt in the upper room when Jesus gives evidence of his resurrection, but Peter hasn't had an encounter with Jesus yet. “Am I still in? Am I still included? Do you forgive me for what I did? Or am I out now? What about me? I know there's gonna be a feast, I know that many are gonna sit at the table. Do I have a place?”
And so in John 21, we see beautifully Jesus going after Peter and three times asking him, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me?” “Oh, Lord, I love you.” “Feed my sheep.” Remember that? “Simon, do you love me?” “Yes, I love you.” “Tend my lambs.” Then he asked him a third time, “Do you love me?” And then these words come in, “Peter was hurt, because Jesus asked him three times. He said, ‘Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.’” Do you think Jesus meant to hurt him at that moment? I think he did. He meant to hurt him in order to heal him. As I mentioned in a sermon in Isaiah, most of the therapies, most of the medical therapies there are in the world hurt in order to heal. All surgeries do, chemotherapy hurts in order to heal. And so Jesus meant to hurt him, but not ultimately to hurt him, he meant to heal him and to bring him to repentance.
And so we must go through that pain, we must be willing to repent genuinely, as I've quoted Thomas Watson on the ingredients of true repentance. He was a Puritan pastor. It had six ingredients. Sight of sin, seeing it as it really is. And then sorrow for sin, weeping bitterly over it, as is evidence of sorrow for sin. And then confession of sin, and shame for sin, hatred of sin, and then turning from it.
We tend to want a shortcut short cut, all of that and go quickly, and the Book of James chapter 4 says, “Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.” Humble yourself and let God lift you up in due time. When you've sinned grievously, then spend time repenting. And it's not a work, it's not like you're working your way, it's just you're dealing honestly with the sin, and that pain will stick with you to some degree for the rest of your life to protect you from further sins. And then you'll be done with it. There'll be no more death or mourning, or crying or pain. You'll be free in heaven forever. But we need it now, friends, that's the whole point of discipline, that's the whole point of genuine repentance.
The Possibility of Restoration
Seventh, the possibility of restoration. Praise God for this. This was, in some ways, you could argue - some, I know this mentality, I understand it, but some would argue, they would come very vigorously to Jesus and say, “This man should be disqualified from his ministry for what he did.” And the answer is, it's true, it's true. He should be disqualified. The point of being disqualified is a threat. It says in 1 Corinthians 9, the Apostle Paul says, “I beat my body and make it my slave, so that after I've preached to others, I won't be disqualified.”
But there's a balance here concerning the case of Peter, yes, he should have been disqualified, he was supposed to be an eyewitness testifier to Jesus, and at that very point, he's gonna be completely unbelievable on the day of Pentecost. Tell you what, let's put him on probation, okay, well, he won't be allowed to preach for 10 years. God had a different time table in mind: 40 days later, filled with the Spirit, he was standing in front of the citizens of Jerusalem preaching boldly.
And so I just want to proclaim in the name of Christ, in the name of Peter, the possibility of restoration even from a great sin like this. And how boldly did Peter preach in the book of Acts what at a point a picture of boldness and courage. I love when he and John were arrested after healing that lame man, remember, and they're brought before the council, the very same people who had killed Jesus, really.
He said, “Rulers ” - This is Peter speaking - “Rulers and elders of the people! If we're being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel; It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He is the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone. Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” It's almost like Peter is swimming in the name of Jesus at that point, proud to speak it, proud to honor that name and not ashamed of it at all. Praise God for the transforming power of the gospel and the healing power of Jesus and the shed blood of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.
Peter’s Glorious End
And it went right to the glorious end as Jesus said it would happen. He said, after restoring him, he said, “I tell you the truth” - this is Jesus speaking to Peter in John 21 - “When you were younger, you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted to go, but when you are older in the future, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will dress you and take you where you do not want to go.” And then John editorialized, he said he was speaking of the way by which Peter would glorify God in his death. So Jesus cured him of his fear of death and he gave a bold testimony to Jesus right to the end of his days.
The Amazing Grace of God toward Sinners
Eighth, The Amazing Grace of God to sinners. It's an ocean of grace out there. It's an ocean of grace. Swim in it. And when we get to heaven, we're going to be like the elders and we're gonna take all the good works and the testifying we did to Jesus and all the things we did, and we're gonna cast those crowns before Jesus. You know why? Because he will be the one that deserves credit for every one of them. We are gonna be those who will come into the light so that it may be seen plainly that what we did was done through Jesus.
Be Witnesses for Jesus
And finally ninth, let's be witnesses for Jesus. What do you say? Do you think you can have a chance to share the gospel this week? Do you think God might put you in a place, “Say, Lord, put me in a place where I can testify to Jesus this week. Put me in a place where I can shine like a light in a dark place. But then, you know who's praying this prayer, this is me, the one who every time I get put in that place, I don't do it this time. Would you please give me the courage and the strength to speak Jesus' name and to tell the truth, so that sinners can be saved.”
Close with me in prayer. Father, we thank you for the lessons we learned from Peter's denial, it's a very poignant lesson for me personally, and for all of us, Thank you, Lord Jesus, for your grace and in restoring such a sinner to your service. And I pray that you would protect us from temptations, make a way of escape, so we can get out of situations that are too hard for us, but Lord, give us boldness and courage and strength by the Spirit to speak your name without shame and to pray proclaim your gospel without shame in a world that desperately needs it in Jesus name, amen.