Theme: Guarding against Falling
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
The third point we need to make about Peter can be seen from Matthew 16, when Peter had given a great confession of his faith. Jesus had asked the disciples what the people of the day were saying about Him. They answered that some were saying Jesus was a prophet, or Elijah, or John the Baptist. He then asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” It was Peter who answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” What an amazing confession that was. He did not simply confess that Jesus was a great teacher, or even that he was Peter’s master. Instead, Peter declared that Jesus was the Messiah—that is, he was the anointed One of God, about whom all the Old Testament prophecies are speaking. But not only the Messiah. Peter also said that Jesus was the Son of God, meaning he was the divine Messiah.
That was an enormous and compelling confession. Not only was it a perceptive confession; it was a confession he made when the others were silent. Not only did he confess it, but he confessed it boldly and openly. And if you press it a bit further, you have to say that not only did he believe that, but he had also acted upon it. Earlier when our Lord was talking about the cost of discipleship, Peter replied, “Lord, we have left all to follow you.” Jesus acknowledged that by telling Peter and the rest of the disciples, “Yes, that’s true, but no one has left wife, or house, or children, or work, whatever it may be, for my sake and the kingdom that will not be rewarded here and in the life to come.”
Peter was serious in his discipleship, and yet he denied the Lord. Now we ask the question, how did he get to that point? If he was indeed the leader of the disciples, if he was strong, if he had made a good confession, and if he was even willing to die for Jesus, why is it that he fell? What were the steps of his fall? We need to ask that because if he denied the Lord, then surely we can deny the Lord as well, and we need to see what he did in order that we might profit from it.
Let me suggest the following things. First of all, Peter was confident in himself that he was strong enough to stand, and he didn’t recognize that if he stood, it would only be because Jesus was supporting him. You see that earlier in Matthew 26. Jesus had prophesied what was going to happen, and Peter objected to it, saying, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” And Jesus said to him, “No, I tell you the truth, this very night before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.”
I suppose if we were to put that in our own terms, Peter might have been saying something like this: “Lord, I recognize what you’re saying. You’re saying that all of your disciples are going to forsake, and I can well understand how that might be true of many of them. But I do want to reassure you that regardless of what any of the others might do, I am not going to forsake you, even if it means that I have to lose my life.” He was so sure he could stand, but as it turned out, he wasn’t able to do it at all. None of us can stand in our own strength.
Secondly, Peter failed to pray. That’s related to it, of course. The reason we don’t pray is that we’re overconfident in our own strength. That’s simply a way of saying we don’t think we need God’s help. The interesting thing about this is that Jesus prayed. In this chapter we find Jesus praying long and earnestly about the events that were soon to come upon him. If we look at Jesus, we would think that if anybody didn’t need to pray, it was He. Yet Jesus knew He needed to pray. While Jesus is praying, Peter, who obviously needed to pray, was instead sleeping, which we would have done as well.
What was Peter confessing about Jesus in Matthew 16?
Describe the two items given for why Peter denied the Lord.
Reflection: Have there been times when you were confident in your own strength or wisdom to overcome temptation? The next time that happens, strive to be more committed to pray for the Lord’s grace to enable you to stand against it.