Fall and Rise of Peter | Matthew 26:31-35;69-75
Topic: New Testament Passage: Matthew 26:31–26:35, Matthew 26:69–26:75
Christopher Rich – February 28, 2015
Passion of the King - The Book of Matthew Pt. 5
Wk5: Fall and Rise of Peter | 26:31-35; 69-75
Introduction | Parties Over
Good Morning! This week we are continuing the “Passion of the King” We are spending the weeks leading up to Easter, looking to Jesus on the cross taking our defeat for us including Good Friday, His victorious resurrection on Easter, and the commission He gives his disciples to make disciples and live for him. There are big implications of the gospel. What Jesus is about to accomplish on the cross big questions to wrestle with “Who is Jesus? If He is the Son of God what does that mean for the world? But there are also absolutely individual implications. What does who Jesus is mean for me? (not what do I think it means, but what does it actually accomplish?) We cannot forget while there were eternal cosmic things happening there were everyday disciples who were following Jesus with real struggles, real failures needing real restoration. In this case we see pride, failure, and ultimate redemption in Peter’s roll during the Passion.
PART I | Verse 31-35 | Jesus Calls it
Matthew 26:31-35 | 31 Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ 32 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 33 Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” 34 Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” 35 Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same.
The Disciples shared the Passover together, communion has been instituted, they sang together, and now they are headed just outside of Jerusalem. As he has done several times, Jesus is preparing them for what is about to happen. “We just had communion, but you’re all going to fall away tonight because of what I am about to endure.” Jesus quotes Zech 13:7 about the consequences for the sheep when the shepherd is gone or struck down. Disciples of Jesus are a Gospel Community held together by Jesus for Jesus. When he is arrested and tried by the temple authorities, effectively “struck down” they (without leadership) will all fall away like lost, leaderless sheep. More than a warning of what might happen it is a prophecy of what will happen, and it’s a prophecy with immediacy “This Night.” Yet, Jesus is still giving them real clear and present hope and direction. After Jesus’ resurrection, He is going to be in Galilee (home for these men). They are going to be scattered, but do not fear because we will gather again in Galilee around Jesus.
As usual Peter is quick to jump in and contradict Jesus, in doing so he’s also publically raising himself up above the other disciples. “These jokers are all gunna ditch you Bartholomew, what does he do, certainly Thomas (he’s always doubting.) But not me! I am Peter, remember my nickname is “The Rock” don’t think for a second Jesus I could ever leave you.” Peter is being a self-righteous “I am faithful to Jesus because of who I am.” It is a very short trip from self-righteous self-delusion. We have a higher view of our own faithfulness than Jesus does. Like Peter, many of us don’t think ourselves capable of falling away. When you hear about the fall or failures of other Christians how do you respond? “Oh that could never happen to me, I am just better” Jesus doesn’t affirm Peter’s high view of himself “You’re right Pete, you’re an overcomer!” Jesus clearly and solemnly tells Peter about what his specific failure is going to be. Peter tonight, before day break (in the next 6-8 hours) not only are you going to fail to stand with me and fall away like the others your failure is going to be even more pronounced. You’re going to deny me not once, not twice, but thrice. Peter, still in pride, makes a foolishly bold and rash vow “Even if I must die right by your side, I’ll never deny you!” Everyone else follows Peter’s lead, but Jesus knows clearly our inability to faithfully follow him on our own. We’ll see very quickly who is right and how easy it is for Peter to fail in a big way. Sure zealous Peter goes to battle in the garden, but after Jesus arrest he “follows at a distance” during Jesus trial.
PART II | Verses 69-75 | Peter Blows it
Matt 26:69-75 |69 Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came up to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” 70 But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you mean.”71 And when he went out to the entrance, another servant girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.”72 And again he denied it with an oath: “I do not know the man.” 73 After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.” 74 Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately the rooster crowed. 75 And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.
There is a slippery slope between following at a distance and denial of Jesus. Jesus disciples have all scattered afraid. Peter is isolated from the other disciples, not in the courtroom but the court yard. He was sitting with the guards but here we know he’s actually warming himself by the fire with others who are hostile or indifferent to Jesus. After Jesus’ verdict of “guilty” and sentence of death you don’t see Peter volunteering to die alongside Jesus as he claimed he would, he’s unsettled and insecure. He’s not bold, he’s blending in. He’s approached by a teenage slave girl (literally the lowest legal status person in the society) she’s not even that accusatory about it “You’re with Jesus, right?” Peter’s first denial is one defined by ambiguity. To his whole new group he says “I don’t know what you mean? I don’t understand the question.” Strike one! We’re not much better. It takes less opposition to Jesus than we think to get us to a place of retreat and denial. We respond to simple and clear questions from non-Christians all the time with vague cloudy answers. In environments hostile or indifferent to Jesus we can go out of our way to try to answer by not answering or being unclear where Jesus is clear. Rather than identifying ourselves as “Christian” when we think others view it negatively we say things like “I am a Christ-follower” or a decade ago people said “Jesus is my homeboy” Buzzfeed had a video last year with people boldly declaring “I am Christian but I’m not…..” fill in the most fashionable secular progressive outrage. I’m not one of “those.”
Confronted, Peter moves father away from where Jesus is. Again a servant girl speaks to his identity, this time to the group. Not a question but a statement. “This man was with Jesus.” Again Peter denies but now it is not squishy but firm. .” This isn’t “I’ve heard him, or I like him but I’m not a follower.” It’s with an oath “I swear, I do not know the man.” Trust me not the servant girl; I am not associated with the arrested Jesus. 4 Days earlier he had been relishing in entering the city in a grand procession with Jesus being close to all the praise Jesus was getting but now things are difficult and being associated with Jesus could be costly Peter is fleeing fast. Strike two! An hour or so passed; again Peter has surrounded himself with those who don’t know Jesus. The bystanders come up, “ok we’ve thought a little more about it and you’re not from around here. See we’re sophisticated Jerusalem city folk and you sound a lot like one of the hick from Galilee, and Jesus is from Galilee so umm you’re definitely one of those Jesus people.” They could have been dripping with the same condescension East Coast Elites have for the rural religious South. Things have gotten serious for Peter, he was spooked by the middle school girls but now there is small crowd around him he has to decide is he going to identify with Jesus as one of his people or is he going to deny and distance himself from the one he had earlier declared is “The Christ, the Son of the Living God.” When faced with faithfulness to God, and even his own bold declaration, Peter doesn’t sheepishly admit he’s with Jesus, he aggressively denies any and all association. “By God as my witness, I do not know Jesus and curse me if I was one of his followers.” I’m not one of those wacky radical religious rural Galileans who would follow this Jesus, I’m just like you. Peter not only rejects Jesus but he wants it to be clear he doesn’t identify with Jesus people. We cannot underestimate how easily our good desire for belonging can be coopted into fear of being an outsider leading to compromise and capitulation with the world that is hostile to Jesus. Strike Three. The Rooster crows, hours after Jesus is beaten and mocked for not being able to prophesy, his prophecy about Peter is perfectly fulfilled. Peter is still close enough to what his happening that Luke’s Gospel says at that moment Jesus looked at Peter and he remembered what Jesus said. What was Peter’s reaction to failing Jesus? Where did he go? He when away, away from Jesus, away from everyone, broke down balled his eyes out. Peter “The Rock” has been crushed. Can you imagine the depth of feelings of shame, personally disappointment, failure Peter must have felt at that moment? Maybe you can because you know there have been moments, even patterns of failure and sin you’ve seen in your own life. Let’s not be too hard on Peter. Even if we haven’t verbally deny Jesus in the same way he has we can sometime damage our witness to Jesus worse when we claim to an unbelieving world around us that we are followers of Jesus and then act in ways which deny His power and authority in our lives. Recognition of our failure should remove any veneer of self-righteousness as we realize we are broken and need to be fixed. It would be too easy to end here with a sobering call to not fail like Peter and be reminded that those who deny Jesus before men, Jesus will deny before the Father. But there is great grace for great failures. Which I believe is a huge part of why this is in the Bible. Ask yourself, why do we even know the details of Peter’s denial? The disciples were scattered so John, Matthew weren’t with Peter. The only reason we know so much about this is because Peter was humble enough to share his failure with the early church.
PART III | John 21:15-19 | Jesus Restores Him
John 21:15-19 | 15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”
I don’t believe you can preach about the fall of Peter without the hope displayed in his restoration. Peter failed on Thursday night/Friday morning, there is no question. But his break from Christian community was not long. He wasn’t ostracized from the group because they realized they had all fallen away from Jesus and by resurrection Sunday he was running to the empty tomb along with John. Yet Peter still had doubt and kept his distance not in Jesus but in himself, he went back to fishing for a time. Then was with disciples having community with Jesus around a fire pit where they were all having breakfast. While enjoyable, Peter probably didn’t forget the look Jesus had given him and remembered his failure. Jesus pursues Peter and initiates a critical conversation in front of the other disciples. Paralleling Peter’s three denials, Jesus three distinct times asks of Peter do you love me? Not even do you know me, are you associated with me, or did you at one time follow me when it was exciting and advantageous. Do you have a deep affection for me as your risen king and savior? Each time Peter responds not with self-righteousness but reliance on Jesus mercy “Lord you know I do, you know everything. Yes, Jesus.” Peter didn’t restore himself, Jesus did!
There is a clear equation laid out for Peter. Love Jesus translates into care, serve, and lead His people. Peter you haven’t been restored by Jesus just to ease your conscience from an unpleasant or embarrassing time in your life. You have been restored by the words of Jesus to feed God’s Word to those who need it. Jesus, the good shepherd, the risen shepherd has appointed his restored people as under-shepherd sheep to strengthen weak sheep and lead and guide lost or drifting sheep. Peter’s restoration was public before the other disciples so they could serve with Peter knowing God was gracious in Peter’s failure they could be gracious to him too. They could serve God with freedom knowing their own failures did not always mean defeat and that falling doesn’t mean God is done using them. There is also beauty here in how we know about Peter’s restoration. John writes about it, the guy who has been so hard about Peter throughout the gospels want the church to know he’s seen Jesus amazing restorative grace in his life.
Restoration and relief doesn’t always mean relaxation. John tells us Peter’s love for Jesus lead to a life of self-denial and sacrificial mission for Jesus. With-in days empowered by the Holy Spirit Peter is preaching great evangelistic sermon, going on missionary journeys, spends time in prison, still makes doctrinal and practical errors in how he leads the church, but is used by God in remarkable ways. Eventual he faced martyrdom. Peter was crucified upside down because the man who on one night saw Jesus as unworthy of even acknowledging his association later saw himself unworthy to die the same death as his risen savior-king who graciously restored him, and called him again to “Follow me.” Jesus is still about the business of rising up and restoring fallen failure sinner to love and serve his people. At Damascus Road Church we are Restored commissioned disciples, who Trust Jesus!