HH, Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
LEARNING FROM PETER’S DENIAL
Matthew 26:69-75 Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee. 70 But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest. 71 And when he was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth. 72 And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man. 73 And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee. 74 Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. 75 And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly.
Theme: Peter’s denial of the Lord teaches us what we can do to stand faithfully for Him in our own times of testing.
We return this morning to the Gospel of Matthew—and to the saddest event in the life of the apostle Peter.
Our Lord had just been arrested in the garden, and taken captive by those who would soon crucify Him. He had been brought into the residence of Caiaphas the high priest, examined by the Jewish council, and declared worthy of death because of His testimony that He was the Son of God.
And while all of this was going on, Matthew tells us;
Now Peter sat outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came to him, saying, “You also were with Jesus of Galilee.” But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you are saying.” And when he had gone out to the gateway, another girl saw him and said to those who were there, “This fellow also was with Jesus of Nazareth.” But again he denied with an oath, “I do not know the Man!” And a little later those who stood by came up and said to Peter, “Surely you also are one of them, for your speech betrays you.” Then he began to curse and swear, saying, “I do not know the Man!” Immediately a rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus who had said to him, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” So he went out and wept bitterly (Matthew 26:69-75).
What a tragic failure Peter’s denial of the Lord was! Considering the privileges that Peter experienced, I believe it truly is the greatest moral failure of any of God’s saints in all the Bible.
But I’m also very glad that it’s recorded for us in Scripture. One reason I’m glad is because it gives authenticity to the Bible’s testimony about Jesus. All four of the Gospels tell us this story of Peter’s denial; and if the writers of those Gospels were trying to fabricate a positive picture of the Christian faith, they certainly wouldn’t have repeatedly told us of the failure of one of the church’s founding apostles—the very man, in fact, on whose testimony Jesus said, “I will build My church” (Matthew 16:18).
I believe that the Holy Spirit chose to record the story of Peter’s denial in the Bible—in part—because it helps to confirm the Bible’s integrity. But it does more than that. I’m glad that Peter’s denial is recorded for us because you and I can identify with his weaknesses—and from the story of his failure, we can learn what we need to do in order to stand strong for the Lord in our own times of testing.
Over the years, it’s been my privilege to lead small discipleship groups. I deeply enjoy meeting with other men and women who are seeking to grow in the Lord, helping to get them into a regular habit of reading God’s word and encouraging them in their walk with Him.
And in those discipleship-relationships, one of the things that I have learned is the value of sharing from the experience of my own failures. It’s all-too-easy to do so, I’m afraid because there are many to draw from. But it makes for a ‘teachable moment’—both for myself and for my growing brothers in Christ—when I start the conversation off by saying, “Well, guys; something happened since the last time we met. I really blew it and did something really stupid. Let me tell you about it.” I don’t necessarily enjoy being that open and honest! But together with the guys in my group, we take a careful look at what I did wrong; and we learn what God would have all of us do differently in the future.
And that’s how I’m approaching today’s passage. I believe Peter would want us to hear this story—as painful as it might be. I believe that if our dearest elder-brother Peter were with us today, he might begin by telling us something like this:
“Now listen, my dear brothers and sisters. Back in my day—believe me—it was very hard to take a stand for Jesus! It often meant persecution and suffering. You might remember that I wrote my first letter to a group of my Jewish kinsmen who were Christians. I called them “the pilgrims of the Dispersion” (1 Peter 1:1Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia), and that was because they were scattered away from their homeland because of their devotion to the Master. You might even remember that I wrote something to those Christians back then that I could have just as well written to you my dear fellow-believers living for Jesus in the twenty-first century America:
Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified (1 Peter 4:12-14).
“You are living today in very exciting and challenging days. The people around you desperately need to hear about our Lord! And I know that it’s hard for you to take a stand for Him in the ungodly culture in which you live. What’s more, I’m not going to try and paint a rosy picture for you; you need to know that it’s going to get even harder to take a stand for Him as the days roll on. As our brother Paul has written, “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.” (2 Timothy 3:1). He went on to write that, on the one hand, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” (3:12); and that, on the other hand, “But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.” (v. 13). That’s the situation our wise Father has put you in, my dear brothers and sisters; and in times to come, you’re going to feel a very powerful and overwhelming temptation to deny Jesus in the circumstances of daily life.
“I truly understand that temptation. I felt it myself. And boy; did I ever blow it once! You could not possibly blow it as badly as I did! But our Saviour had mercy on me. Oh, He is so loving and forgiving! And He even went on to use me—in spite of my horrible failure.
“I want you to hear about my failure—and think about the lessons you can learn from it; so you’ll know what you need to do in order to take a faithful stand for the Saviour whenever you’re tempted to deny Him.”
TO BE CONTINUED TOMORROW ….