Dear Fellow Redeemed,
We’re in a series called Witnesses to Christ. Today, we meet Peter. Peter is in the courtyard of a high priest named Caiaphas. If we are looking for a good witness to affirm who Jesus is, then it would seem that Peter is our man. Matthew, Mark, and Luke record this exchange from early in Christ’s ministry: Matthew 16:13–16 (ESV) 13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Earlier in the evening, Jesus had told His disciples that he would go where they could not follow – at least not now. “Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.” (John 13:36–38, ESV)
That brings us to tonight’s lesson. John lays out Peter’s abject failure in rather unemotional terms, concluding the account simply, “Peter again denied it, and at once a rooster crowed.” (John 18:27, ESV)
Matthew conveys more of the real tenor of the situation: “After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.” Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.”
Matthew also tells us what happened when Peter realized he was a promise-breaker, a coward, a deserter-of-friend, and unfaithful to the One he had acknowledged as the Son of God. And immediately the rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.” (Matthew 26:73–75, ESV)
Those were the tears of guilt and regret. He was guilty alright, but he also FELT guilty. What do you feel guilty about? Is it something from long ago that you would be utterly ashamed of? Did you take something from the till? Overcharge? Were caught cursing or drunk? Did you break the law? Were you careless and hurt somebody? Did you take advantage of somebody? Give in to sexual desire? Porn? Have a live-in? A one-night stand? Those are the “biggies,” probably.
But the devil can drive us to despair without something that would shock people. Sins of omission are very real too. Have you failed to bring others to Jesus, or even to church? How many needy people do you come across without helping? Are you stingy in your stewardship of Gods money that you have charge of for a while? Do you spend so much on yourself there isn’t anything left over for His work? Have you failed to put him first? Have your words been sarcastic, cutting? Have you failed to respect your husband and build him up? Are you a stranger to simple kindness?
And then what about your fears. Jesus says Jesus says, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Mt. 16:24). “He who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me” (Mt. 10:38) Have you contended for the faith and been a witness for Christ in this anti-Christian time?
The usual way to deal with these BIG things is to try to turn over a new leaf or say they were in the past. For the others, well its no big deal and nobody can do everything, right? I’m not going to do that. As we confess together ever Sunday, our sins call down God’s wrath both in time and in eternity. So how can Peter be any kind of witness to Christ? How can we? Peter may have remembered what Jesus said, “And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:38, ESV)
The law is the law and it is absolute. Do not look to God’s commands as a way to heaven. Our hope of heaven doesn’t hinge on “Have I done enough?” “Have I lived a spotless life?” “Am I enough of a Christian.”
Remember, Jesus doesn’t wait until we get it all together. Jesus doesn’t wait until we overcome our temptations and fight our demons and conquer our sin. “God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). In our courtyard, we see guilt. Beyond the courtyard—at the cross—we see grace. And grace means what?
The comeback! We are restored and forgiven. And, by the way, it DOES show in your life. Who preaches the sermon on Pentecost? Peter. Whose sermon converts three thousand people? Peter’s. Who writes two books in the New Testament? Peter. Listen closely. Comebacks don’t depend on how much we love Jesus. Comebacks depend on how much Jesus loves us.
Comebacks don’t depend on what we do for Jesus. Comebacks depend on what Jesus does for us. Comebacks don’t depend on us giving our life for Jesus. Comebacks depend on Jesus giving His life for us.
And that HE has done – the life He lived is our righteousness and the life He gave up is the atoning sacrifice for our sins.
The ultimate comeback is in heaven, where we shed our sinful flesh and live only in the same righteousness as Christ, whose righteousness is ours. We will experience guilt and the fear of our sins – even when our real guilt has been taken away!
But fear not. Speaking for Jesus, I forgive you.
Dear Fellow Redeemed,