************ Sermon on Luke 22:54-62 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on February 24, 2002
"He Wept Bitterly"
Next week Sunday we hope, the Lord willing, to celebrate the Lord's Supper. As we prepare our hearts during the coming week I want us all to consider how we, like Peter, have denied or disowned Jesus by our words and actions.
It is a serious matter to deny or disown the Lord. At stake is forgiveness and salvation and eternal life. Don't forget what Jesus said:
(Mt 10:32-33) "Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. (33) But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.
I Peter Disowns the Lord
A We can't ever look at what Peter did without recalling his brave and even boastful words just a few hours earlier: "Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death" (Mt 22:33).
Jesus knows better and answers Peter with a prediction specifically about him:
(Lk 22:34) ... "I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.""Deny." Jesus predicts that Peter will disown or deny Him. The Greek word that is used here implies a previous relationship of faith, trust, and fidelity. In other words, only those who have a relationship with the Lord can disown or deny Him. How it must have hurt Jesus to say this: after all, He is not talking of unbelievers, atheists, or pagans here; rather, He is talking of a trusted companion and friend, someone He loves, someone who loves Him in return. "You will deny three times that you know me." "You, who know me, who follow me, who love me, will deny three times that you even know me."
B We all know what happened next: Jesus was betrayed, arrested, and taken to a meeting of the Sanhedrin. But where was Peter? Did he go with Jesus to prison and to death? Verse 54 tells us what Peter did: Peter "followed at a distance."
"At a distance." Do you see what has happened? He who had so defiantly asserted that he would never forsake the Lord, even if it meant dying for the Lord, had followed his Master "at a distance" to the high priest's palace. If Peter was true to his words he should have been at Jesus' side, walking right beside him; instead, Peter followed "at a distance."
C Peter followed at a distance, right up to the courtyard of the high priest. He entered and sat down with the guards around the fire. While there, three people said something about Peter's relationship to Jesus. I want you to notice that only one of the accusations was said to Peter himself; the other two accusations were said to the crowd around the fire. In response Peter denied even knowing the Lord.
D What happened? Why did Peter follow at a distance? Why did Peter deny knowing the Lord? One commentator put it this way: Peter followed out of love, but at a distance out of fear.
Peter was scared. Peter, however, had a special reason to fear. After all, it was he who wounded the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. And now he was in the courtyard of the same high priest. He, so to speak, was behind enemy lines. Probably the people around the fire were friends or family of the man whose ear he had cut off.
Do you remember Peter's earlier words – his proud, boastful words?
(Lk 22:33) "Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death."How the mighty have fallen! He was not so ready, after all, to go to prison and to death.
E As I already said, next week Sunday we hope, the Lord willing, to celebrate the Lord's Supper. As we prepare our hearts during the coming week I want us all to consider how we, like Peter, have denied or disowned Jesus by our words and actions.
Like Peter, we make promises to the Lord. When we joined the church, for instance, we promised to love the Lord, to serve Him according to His Word – to forsake the world, to put to death our old nature, to lead a godly life. Yet, how many of us actually live up to this all the way and all the time?
We deny the Lord when we live the kind of lives that pagans live. For instance, we deny the Lord when we chase after money rather than God, when we live for fun rather than the kingdom, when we seek revenge rather than love, when we focus on self rather than Jesus. We deny the Lord when we go along with coarse joking or rough language. We deny the Lord when we engage in sexual immorality or any kind of impurity. We deny the Lord when we allow any form of idolatry in our lives. We deny the Lord when we go along with the crowd instead of standing up for what is noble and right and pure and lovely and admirable.
We deny the Lord when we are hesitant to practice our faith. For instance, we deny the Lord when we are ashamed or scared to pray in public. We deny the Lord when we go on vacation without our Bibles – or even take a vacation from the Lord. We deny the Lord when we so casually stop attending worship.
When we fail to acknowledge or confess Christ before men we deny Him. In every church, it seems, that are those who fail to publicly confess their faith in Christ; they neither accept nor reject Jesus; rather, they simply neglect Him; they put off a decision about the Lord – this also is a form of denial.
God gives us many opportunities for witness, but we remain silent – this is a form of denial.
So many times we are confronted with injustice and evil, but we don't speak out – this too is a form of denial.
When we fail to believe rightly in Jesus, we also deny Him. Scripture presents certain infallible truths about the Lord: that He is true God and true man; that He was conceived by the Spirit and born of the virgin Mary; that He suffered and died for our sins and was raised for our justification; that He ascended into heaven; that He shall some day come again to judge the living and the dead. We deny Jesus if we do not believe all this.
Like Peter, we can make all the promises and bold assertions that we want. Yet, in spite of them, we end up falling and failing. Here is a reminder that man's words and man's promises are so faithless, that they are only empty words. On our own, by our own strength, we can do nothing. On our own, by our own strength, we can't even keep our good intentions. The end result is that we end up denying the Lord.
II Peter's Weeping
A Peter denied the Lord. He denied the Lord three times. Jesus turned around and looked straight at Peter. He caught Peter's eye. Then Peter remembered the Lord's prediction about disowning the Lord three times.
I want you to notice what Peter did: "he went outside and wept bitterly" (Lk 22:62).
His tears were a symbol of his shame, remorse, sorrow, confession, and repentance.
Peter wept that he had let the Lord down. Peter wept that he broke his word. Peter wept that he was faithless to the Lord. Peter wept about his fear. Peter wept that He denied the Lord.
Peter also wept that he added to the suffering and pain of the Lord. In the space of a few hours Jesus was betrayed by Judas and now was denied by Peter. To a certain extent, Peter was weeping because he realized he was no better than Judas.
B As we prepare for the Lord's Supper this coming week we, like Peter, should also be filled with shame, remorse, sorrow, confession, and repentance for our sin.
I don't mean that we should merely feel bad for those times we have let down the Lord. Judas, I would have to say, felt bad about what he did to the Lord. He felt bad that he betrayed the Lord with a kiss. He felt bad that he lifted his hand against someone Who trusted him. But his was not a godly sorrow. That is, his sorrow did not arise from true repentance over his sin.
We, like Peter, should be filled with shame, remorse, sorrow, confession, and repentance that we have caused the Lord of glory so much heart ache and pain. We should be ashamed that He had to suffer on the cross for our sin.
III Peter's Contrast With the Lord
A Built into our larger Scripture reading is a series of contrasts between Peter on the one hand and the Lord Jesus on the other.
Take a look at their predictions. Peter predicts that he is ready to go with Jesus to prison and to death. Yet, when push comes to shove, Peter follows at a distance and denies the Lord. Jesus, by way of contrast, predicts that Peter will deny three times that he even knows the Lord. So far it is Jesus' prediction, not Peter's, that has proven to be true.
B Consider the contrast, too, between the reply of Peter and the reply of Jesus. In the court yard of the high priest someone sees Peter and says, "You also are one of them." Peter's reply: "I am not!" (Lk 22:58). The high priest asks Jesus if He is the Son of God. Jesus' reply: "I am" (Lk 22:70).
Peter was not arrested. He was not charged with anything. It was only a young girl who said something to him. Yet, Peter denied his association with Jesus: "I am not!" Jesus, on the other hand, has been arrested. He has been charged with blasphemy. He stood before the high priest of Israel. Yet, He did not falter in His testimony: "I am."
C Do you know what we see here? We see the faithfulness of God even in the midst of the faithlessness of man. We see that in contrast to what man does or says, our Lord remains faithful to His promises and true to His Word.
When we look ahead in our story, we see the Lord's continued faithfulness – even to an unfaithful Peter. Again, we have to go back to what Jesus earlier said to Peter. He said,
(Lk 22:31-32) "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. (32) But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers."Peter makes a promise to follow the Lord no matter what – and he fails miserably. Jesus makes a promise to restore Peter's faith; and He does. He resturns Peter to the fold. He uses Peter as a leader in the early church to strengthen and encourage the other disciples and followers.
D The Good News of the Gospel is that the Lord remains faithful to us even when we, like Peter, also fail and fall. No matter how many times we break our promises to God and His people, no matter how many times we sin and end up denying the Lord, He keeps forgiving us and restoring us to His fold.
It is wrong to deny the Lord, as Peter did, because the Lord wants His followers to confess Him before men. It is even worse to not repent, as Judas did.
Peter denied the Lord. But he repented. So, by grace, he was forgiven. And, we know that if we too repent we too, by grace, can be forgiven.
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