Wednesday, September 19, 2012

John 18:25-27

This morning we will look at Peter’s lowest moment, when he denied Christ three times, just as Jesus had predicted. John’s gospel gives the briefest picture of the scene:

As Simon Peter stood warming himself, he was asked, “You are not one of his disciples, are you?” 

He denied it, saying, “I am not.” 

One of the high priest’s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, “Didn’t I see you with him in the olive grove?”  Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow. (John 18:25-27)

John, the Apostle of love, probably knew the pain Peter felt, and did not belabor the humiliation. He chose to give more emphasis to the restoration of Peter after Jesus’ was resurrected. The other gospels, however, give more detail about how vehemently Peter denied Christ that day. Matthew’s version shows Peter’s emotional state more clearly:

Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said. 

But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. 

Then he went out 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!” 

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!” 

Immediately a rooster crowed.  Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly. (Matthew 26:69-75)

Luke adds one more significant detail:

Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed.  The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.”  And he went outside and wept bitterly. (Luke 22:60-62)

Only a short time before this, Peter had rushed to Jesus’ defense swinging his sword at Malchus. Then, with as much passion, out of fear for his own safety, he denied even knowing Christ. Peter had been impulsive and sure of himself. He was positive that, even if everyone else denied Christ, he never would. (Matthew 26:33) Peter needed some humbling so that God might lift him up to become an apostle of reconciliation.

No one understands grace better than someone who has fallen and then been lifted. I’m certain that when Jesus looked straight at Peter, His eyes were filled with love and mercy, rather than condemnation. Jesus had warned Peter earlier that Satan had asked to sift him - but Jesus had assured Peter that He had prayed for him. In fact He said, “...when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:32)

We are all guilty of denying Christ at some point so that we might better fit in. It might be laughing at an inappropriate joke, or going to the R-rated movie with the girlfriends, or gossiping at the water cooler with the rest of the gang. Nothing too overt, just a mild, “I don’t know Him.” At other times our behavior may scream, “I’ve never met Him!!” How sweet of the Holy Spirit at those times to convict us with a rooster’s crow and bring us up short! And even better is the look of love from Jesus, who is always praying for us when Satan tries to sift us!

Peter immediately was filled with remorse. He repented! And for a while he must have been overcome with grief, not only for the loss of Jesus, but grief deepened by his betrayal. But, hallelujah, “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1) We will see later how gently Jesus restored Peter. Aren’t we so very thankful for our own restoration?? What a wonderful Savior!  

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