Part of our Bible Study series for the Christian Index. Text – John 18:15-18, 25-27; 21:15-19
For the next six weeks we will look at God’s grace in restoring “Broken Vessels: How God uses Imperfect People.” There are two things God’s people often pray about and long for. One is the eradication of evil. Because we are limited in our understanding, it is sometimes hard to determine why God allows evil to exist.
The second thing many pray for is a fresh start. Our sins and transgressions often haunt us and we may wonder if we can be truly forgiven. In this case, we may wonder why God doesn’t somehow stop us from committing sin and how could He use us again after we have fallen.
Our text this week deals with the denials of Peter … denials made after his declaration that he would rather die than deny (John 13:36-38)! Most of us have a little more likeness to Peter in this regard than we would like to admit. We have made promises to God, then left the altar and miserably failed to live out that which we told the Lord we would do.
It must have hurt when Jesus predicted that Peter would deny Him. It should concern us that we, like Peter, are so quick to go back on our promises to Him. But He never fails us. He is willing to forgive us if we will repent.
In the text we find John and Peter following Jesus to the courtyard of the high priest’s residence. John apparently used his personal connection to the high priest to gain entrance. This would imply that they knew John was an associate of Jesus.
But Peter stayed “outside.” He kept his distance. However, John arranged for Peter to be allowed in. The question from the servant girl at the door was natural enough. Since Peter was with John she thought he might also be one of Jesus’ disciples and bluntly asked him, “You are not also one of this Man’s disciples, are you?”
The first denial occurred. Peter declared, “I am not.”
The high priest then questioned Jesus. It seemed the attention turned to the questioning of the accused.
As the evening progressed the “servants and officers” of the high priest had made a fire to warm themselves and Peter, cold like the rest, had moved in to take advantage of the warmth. I can imagine he was looking down at his feet, trying to hide his face so he would not be recognized.
Since Peter was not familiar to them, it was again natural for them to pose the question to Peter as to why he was there. “You are not also one of His disciples, are you?”
The second denial came, as he said emphatically this time, “I am not!”
One of the servants, who just happened to be a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, was there. He had seen the altercation in the garden. He may not have been certain Peter had been the one to wield the sword, but he was quite sure Peter was with Jesus. “Did I not see you in the garden with Him?”
The third denial was voiced, followed immediately by the crowing of a rooster.
I think the harshest thing ever said to a Christian is, “I thought you were a Christian.” This statement usually comes from a lost person and is directed at us for failure to live out our Christian faith. In essence, we have in some way denied the Lord and it was noticed by people all too quick to mock us and point out that we are not living up to our own standard.
When we have failed – and we all do – not only are we sometimes questioned by the world, but we also come under the attack of the enemy. The demons would have us believe we are no longer useful to God. “You messed up. You are no longer qualified to serve God, might as well quit.”
Jesus is just as knowledgeable of our sin as He was Peter’s. He knows of it beforehand, yet loves us nonetheless. How heartbroken I am to recall those times where I have not stood boldly for the Lord, even though I had promised I would.
In John 21:15-19 we find Peter face-to-face with Jesus. In spite of his previous failure, the Lord knew Peter loved him. Peter affirmed his love for Jesus. I think it is important to note that at this point Peter had repented. We recall that after his denial he wept bitterly. He was broken over his sin.
One of the surest signs a person is saved is when their sin really bothers them. If you love someone, you cannot hurt or disappoint them and feel nothing. But Peter had to wonder, considering the seriousness of his denials, if Jesus still loved him and if he could still be used of the Lord.
We find the answer clearly given. Jesus said two things to Peter, “Feed my sheep,” and “Follow Me.”
Will God give us a fresh start? Absolutely! If we rebel we must repent and return to our first love. He will then recommission us to get on with our life of service to Him.
If you have failed, even if that includes a denial of the Lord, fall on your face before Him, repent of your sin, and renew your surrender to the Lord. He will forgive you and you can get on with following and serving Him.
If we fail, Jesus will restore us. Make a fresh start today!
Questions for Group Discussion:
- Discuss the factors that are involved in denying the Lord.
- How have you denied the Lord in the past?
- Discuss Matthew 10:32. What does it really mean to “confess” Jesus before men?
- What should you do if you have failed or denied the Lord?