Peter and the Denial – John 18:17, 25-27
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 24, 2016
Betrayal by a friend is a horrible thing to go through and so is desertion of one’s companions as well. Jesus experienced both. And both are seen in our day and age as not just offensive but something whereby the guilty party can be imprisoned for life or even given the death penalty if it involves the betrayal of country or king. As awful as Judas’ betrayal was, Peter’s was in some ways far more personal and thereby worse. What can we learn from Peter and his denial this morning? Let’s find out…
Before James, Jesus’ brother said, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” he related that the believer should “be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” (James 1:19-20, 22 NIV) Peter was one to quickly jump into whatever situation he was in with both feet. He needed to learn to think before he leapt. He betrayed Jesus because God understood Peter needed to learn a lesson. Let’s discover what lessons we can learn from Peter and the denial…
“You are not one of his disciples, are you?” the girl at the door asked Peter. He replied, “I am not… 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 18:17, 25-27 NIV)
Peter was asked twice, “You are not one of his disciples, are you?” however not by the same servant girl. Luke indicates it was a man who questioned Peter a second time. Whatever the case they were certain he was one of Jesus’ disciples because he was dressed like someone from that area, perhaps his speech patterns gave him away, or how he kept glancing towards what was going on in the courtyard. Mark says that the servant girl told Peter, “You also were with that Nazarene!” (Mark 14:67 NIV) Whatever the circumstance Peter was given an opportunity to take a stand with Jesus and refused, not just once or twice but three times. Just as Jesus had told him he would do. In fact Peter’s betrayal is reported in all four Gospels, which indicates something of the importance the Gospel writers saw in his defection. What does this tell us about Peter and what does this tell us about ourselves for that matter?
1) First we discover it becomes easier to betray Jesus each time we do it. While Peter was quick in the garden to grab his sword and cut off the ear of a defenseless servant, it was a whole other matter to stand tall when in the enemy’s camp and confronted. We forget that every day we live in the camp of the enemy. It is easy to become complacent when rubbing shoulders with those who are actively destroying our relationship with God. Paul would write, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2 NIV) Peter was relying on himself and he would need to learn to rely on his faith instead if he was going to serve Jesus in the future. It is easy for us to begin to think that if we can do it, then God must be in it. This is a dangerous position. The believer’s strength to stand when confronted by the world comes not from themselves, but from their steadfast stand in Jesus Christ! Jesus had told him, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” (John 14:1 NIV) That truth rings true for us as well. Never forget it becomes easier to betray Jesus each time we do it!
EXAMPLE: I can’t remember the first day I ever had chocolate but I know ever since then it has become easier and easier to eat it; the same thing was true with pie — good homemade pie. It became easier and easier to say “yes” to each piece. When we betray Jesus we may not have even meant to do so, but with each betrayal it became easier. In our day and age with all of life’s distractions, the ingrained selfishness of society, and the pull of being accepted it has become easier and easier to betray Jesus. Never forget it becomes easier to betray Jesus each time we do it!
2) Second, we discover that we will be constantly confronted in life to declare who we believe in. There is not a day in our life whereby we are not confronted in some way to decide whether to follow Jesus or not. What we say, who we associate with, watch on TV or the movies, or what we read. We know ahead of time we will be confronted. It will happen. Peter knew ahead of time he would betray Jesus yet he was totally unprepared when the time came. Peter would write, “Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.'” (1 Peter 1:13-16 NIV) Perhaps he was thinking of how he had conformed. Jesus warned Peter ahead of time so Peter would not be caught off guard. Peter did not yet enjoy the same kind of relationship we enjoy with Jesus. We have the presence and power of God in our lives through the Holy Spirit because of our faith. Yet we can learn from Peter to be prepared. It is more than a Boy Scout motto; it is our marching orders for an empowered life in Jesus! Never forget we will be constantly confronted in life to declare who we believe in!
EXAMPLE: The term “stand and deliver” was a phrase used by bandits of 18th century. They were called highwaymen. These highwaymen were often little more than what we would now call muggers, although some highwaymen did fit into the ‘gentleman of the road’ persona that dramatists later portrayed. It literally meant for you to stop and give up all your goods, everything you had on your person or be shot to death. Just in case people didn’t get the idea, from the 1750s onward the “stand and deliver” command was extended to include “your money or your life”. Later, it meant for the one challenged to give an answer to what they believed. What would you say if you were challenged to “stand and deliver” concerning your faith? Never forget we will be constantly confronted in life to declare who we believe in!
3) Third, each of us must ask ourselves if we are Jesus’ disciple or not. If God is speaking to you today, you must be willing to go with him. Paul reminds us that “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things–and the things that are not–to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.” (1 Corinthians 1:27-29 NIV) Perhaps he is choosing you now? Luke tells us that after Peter had denied Jesus for the third time, “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 NIV) Peter had remorse because he knew who he should have remained true to. He had forgotten who had chosen him in the first place. Hebrews reminds us that “It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because of their disobedience. Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before: ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.'” (Hebrews 4:6-7 NIV) and Paul would write, “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2 NIV) Later Peter would understand, later Peter would be forgiven, and later he would decide to trust Jesus with his life. Therefore today do not harden your heart to Jesus. You must ask yourself if you are Jesus’ disciple or not!
EXAMPLE: Kurt Russell starred in a 1998 campy film called “Soldiers”. It is about a group of men grown from birth to be the ultimate soldier for fighting wars that is until they are replaced by more advanced genetically engineered ones. He is dumped on a waste disposal planet and lives among a community of crash survivors on the planet and takes it upon himself to defend his new home when the genetic engineered soldiers are ordered to eliminate the crash survivors. What he thought was true and what he was taught to believe about himself is challenged. Now what if I told you the same is true for each of us this morning. What we may think is true about our life is not true at all. You must ask yourself if you are Jesus’ disciple or not!
Never forget it becomes easier to betray Jesus each time we do it! Never forget we will be constantly confronted in life to declare who we believe in! You must ask yourself if you are Jesus’ disciple or not!
This article is copyrighted © 2016 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.