Theme: The Power of Christ’s Cross
In this week’s lessons, we look at the story of Peter’s denial, and see that no matter our sins, we can be forgiven and restored because of the death of the Lord Jesus Christ on our behalf.
Scripture: Matthew 26:75
Now all of that would be a very sad story were it not for what we know from Scripture about Jesus’ relationship to Peter. Peter’s relationship to Jesus wasn’t much; he is the one who denied Jesus. But Jesus’ relationship to Peter was the great thing. Peter was denying the Lord, which was obviously a terrible sin. But, you see, at that very moment, the Lord Jesus Christ was in the process of going to the cross to die for that sin, and not only for that sin, but for all the sins of all His people. He was going to pay the punishment by His own death, due to us for exactly such denials. And not only was He about to die for Peter’s sin and for our sins as well, but He had also been praying for Peter that although he was going to fall in the temptation, that his faith might not fail but, rather, he might be strengthened in the process.
When I read that passage and try to reflect on what is behind it, as Jesus speaks to Peter, I think something like this must have happened. Satan, the devil, must have come to Jesus in one way or another, and had pointed to Peter, and said to him, “Look, Jesus, do you really expect to do anything with Peter? He always is the first to speak so boldly, yet he doesn’t have any character beneath it. Why, if you would just give me permission to blow on him a little bit, you’d find that he would blow away like chaff at threshing time because that’s how light his character is. That’s what Jesus meant when He told Peter that Satan wanted to sift him as wheat.
However, while Jesus knew that there was certainly a lot of chaff in Peter, nevertheless what Satan was overlooking was the fact that Jesus has put some of His grain there by means of the new birth, by regeneration. So when Jesus allows Satan to blow on Peter, in a spiritual sense, the result will not be Peter’s destruction, but his perseverance. Jesus is going to preserve Peter such that the chaff in Peter’s life is going to be winnowed out, and he is going to be a stronger person at the end than he was at the beginning.
Jesus warned Peter that this was going to happen, and he told Peter that even though he would weaken and fall temporarily, Peter would turn back and be a useful servant because of the wheat of genuine spiritual life that Christ had bestowed upon him. And because he was spiritually alive, when he denied the Lord he was overcome with remorse for what he had done, and he went out and wept bitterly. They were the tears of genuine repentance that alone come from a heart in whom the Lord Jesus Christ is working.
Now you may be saying, “I have also denied the Lord. I can think of how I’ve done it this week. As a matter of fact, it’s not only this week that I’ve done it. My whole life, in a certain sense, has been a denial of the Lord. I’ve never really gotten on that tram wholeheartedly. I’ve always been halfway on with Christ and halfway out. I know that, and what worries me is that I have done it many more times than Peter has. He only denied Him three times in a very short period of time. But I have done it not once, or twice, or even a dozen. I have probably denied the Lord 100 or 1,000 times, and my fear is that it’s probably too late for me. I could never get back on the track now.”
What I want to say to you is that it is never too late. God always takes you right where you are, no matter what you have done, no matter how terrible it may be. He doesn’t gloss over the sin. He wants you to confess it because one thing He wants to do is save you from it. He wants you to turn from it and follow after Jesus Christ. But wherever you are, whatever you have done, it’s to you, as you are, that He speaks, directing you to follow Jesus. You might think you cannot come anymore because of your sin. So have we all. Is there anybody who hasn’t sinned? Of course there isn’t.
You might answer, “But with me it’s different, because I’ve sinned many, many times.” Let me ask you this question. At the very moment Jesus was dying, for how many sins did Jesus die? Was it for one just one sin that you’ve committed? Was it for a dozen sins, 100 sins? Jesus’ death did not cover only a certain number of the sins of His people, nor for just a certain number of your sins. Jesus was dying for every single sin of every single one of the people whom God is leading to faith and whom He is going to bring with Him to glory.
What you have to do is recognize that and say, “Regardless of what I have done, my hope is in Jesus’ blood and righteousness, not in my own strength.” When you do that, and when you draw near to Him, you will find that He will strengthen you. After all, He has prayed for you, and He will keep you, bless you, and cause you to grow because of who He is. Won’t you do that? You have been sitting in the courtyard of the high priest, warming yourself by the fire of the enemies of Jesus Christ long enough. It’s time to leave the courtyard and follow Jesus. If you do, you’ll find Him there ahead of you. You may be chagrined by your denial, but you’ll find Him coming to you, as He did to Peter later on, saying, “Peter, do you love me?” Peter did, you know. He said, “Lord, you know I love you,” and Jesus replied, “Feed my sheep.” You see, there was work for him to do, and there’s work for you to do also.
In response to Peter’s weakness, what did Jesus say and do? What assurance does Peter receive?
How does Peter go on to complete the work Jesus gave him to do?
Application: Do you feel as Peter did after his denial? Have you done something that is causing you to question whether you can ever be forgiven and restored to usefulness for the Lord? What did you learn from this story of Peter, and how will you apply it to your own life?
For Further Study: If we are to withstand temptation, it must be by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and God’s promises to us found in Scripture as they are applied to us by the Holy Spirit. Download and listen for free to James Boice’s message, “A Place to Stand.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)