Peter was no coward. He was loyal and zealous in his love for Jesus and he was head-strong and confident that he could take on any of Jesus’ enemies.
He promised to stand with Christ, as did the rest of His disciples; and he meant it! Listen to him in Matthew 26:35 as he boasts to Jesus, “Though I should die with Thee, yet will I not deny Thee.”
He was even ready to fight with his sword at the drop of a hat, so to speak. Imagine the courage he showed as he lashed out with his sword in the face of the angry mob that came to arrest Jesus! However, his fleshly struggle to defend Jesus only added to Jesus’ burden.
Some Christians have fighting spirits. They, like Peter, enjoy a good fight and they’re ready to fight at the drop of a hat. But they are of no help to Jesus until they understand that warfare is not physical, but spiritual; fought with the spiritual weapon of prayer. Read II Corinthians 10:3-4 and Ephesians 6:10 on this.
In the story of Peter’s denial of Jesus we learn how over-confidence in himself, following Jesus afar off and sitting by the fire with the enemy led to tragic failure. I encourage you to read the full story of Peter’s denial of Jesus from the four Gospels. You’ll find Peter’s trial and Jesus’ trial intermingled in the four accounts in Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22, and John 18.
The contrast is that Peter’s trial evidenced his weakness. Jesus’ trial evidenced His almighty strength.
The story of Peter’s denial actually begins at the table in the Upper Room with Jesus and His disciples. There Jesus, knowing Peter better than Peter knew himself, warned him of his coming denial and encouraged him concerning his restoration. When Jesus warned Peter that he would deny Him, Peter immediately replied to Jesus. (The words aren’t there, but this is what is implied.) “Jesus, you don’t know me as well as I know myself. You have me wrong. I would NEVER deny You! Others may; but not me!”
Jesus continued with Peter. “But I have prayed for you that your faith will not fail. When you recover, strengthen your brethren.”
Time proved Jesus right about Peter. After Peter repented and returned to Christ, God used him to preach that first sermon to the new Church at Pentecost and 3000 souls were saved and added to the Church. Later God used Peter to write two inspired Epistles which we have in our Bibles as I & II Peter.
So Peter’s fall began with over confidence in himself. The warning is given to each of us in I Corinthians 10:12 “Let him who thinks he stands, beware lest he fall.”
You may remember when the crowd, led by Judas. came to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane; that Peter, in his over confidence in himself and also perhaps to prove how loyal he was to Jesus, took his sword to kill one of the men. It turned out that Peter only got his ear. Jesus restored the man’s ear to his head, perfectly healed.
Then Jesus gently reproved Peter, reminding him that those who commit murder; whether it is to try to protect Jesus, (and we could add) or who kill abortion doctors to try to prevent further abortions, face capital punishment, which is a responsibility of human government. See Capital Punishment link on this web site for more on this.
Briefly now, let’s trace Peter’s spiritual decline.
First, his revulsion with Jesus’ message about the cross. This is found in Matthew 16:21-28
Second, his desire for glory rather than the shame that comes with identification with Christ. Luke 9:28-35
Third, his brashness and self-confidence in the Upper Room. Luke 22:31-34
Fourth, his lack of prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. Luke 22:45
Fifth, his blundering zeal without direction in Luke 22:22:49-50
Sixth, his desire to follow Jesus from a distance. Matthew 26:58
Seventh, warming himself by the enemies’ fire that cold night while Jesus shivered in his blood and perspiration soaked robe as he stood before Caiaphas, the High Priest, and his blood thirsty cronies. Mark 14:54, Luke22:54,
All of this led to his three denials of Christ, denying even that he knew Jesus and denying with an oath. Matthew 26:69-74
At the time of his third denial of Christ, the cock crowed, just as Jesus had told him it would happen. At that moment Jesus looked at Peter, and Peter melted into shame and wept bitter tears of repentance. That moment marked the beginning of Peter’s restoration to fellowship with Christ and the opportunity to serve Christ in the future, as it does for us when we are broken before God in repentance.
Thank God for Peter’s restoration. Jesus had told him he would be restored. It happened on the shore of the Sea of Galilee one morning following the resurrection of Christ.
At a breakfast which Jesus had prepared for some of the disciples, Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him. Just as Peter had denied Jesus three times, now Jesus gave him the opportunity to confess his love for Christ three times. That morning, Jesus commissioned Peter to feed his sheep and his lambs.
By God’s grace, Peter turned out to be a faithful Apostle whom God greatly used in the early church and who was given the privilege of writing two epistles to the Church.
There in I Peter 1:1-8 Peter is able to write by his own experience as well as by divine inspiration that the trial of our faith, though difficult at the time, eventually brings praise and honor and glory to Christ. For that reason, we rejoice with unspeakable joy.
Thank God for the encouragement Peter is to us as we so often stumble in failure as we seek to faithfully serve our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
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