John 18:12-27 | Jesus is the Object of Injustice: Part 2 | Andrew Gutierrez
Topic: Worship Gatherings Passage: John 18:12–18:27
Open your Bibles to John 18. As many of you know, Brad and myself and Mark Briar were in Nicaragua last week and worshiping with the saints at about this time a week ago. I saw Brad this morning and we mentioned how great it is to be back. It was great to be there, and it’s great to be back. So, thank you for your prayers. We’ll tell you more about that trip next week.
This morning I pick up where I left off two weeks ago in John 18, verses 18 through 27. This is the part two of that message from two weeks ago. We entitled this two-part message “Jesus is the Object of Injustice.” We’re going through the final—really hours—days and hours—of Jesus’ life before he would be executed on the cross. And then we will see his burial, resurrection, commissioning of the disciples and his final restoration of Peter.
So, in the next few months, we’ve got these final chapters of John to do, and it’s been a great time as we’ve gone through together learning all that John and the Holy Spirit want us to learn.
Starting two weeks ago, we looked at verses 12 through about 24, and we noticed that Jesus is the object of injustice. He’s the object of injustice from the world and also from his own followers at times. And so I started off by showing you the trial before Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas. And we noticed that the false trial began in verses 12 through 14, or the false trial commenced.
And then we noticed, as John kind of shifted our focus off of the trial of Israel and onto the faithfulness, or lack of faithfulness, of Peter, John told us in verses 15 through 18 that Peter’s faithless denial commenced. So, we went from the beginnings of a false trial to the beginnings of Peter’s denials.
And then John, as he does uniquely, the other synoptic writers don’t do this, but John focuses back on the trial. He kind of goes back and forth between trial and Peter. Trial and Peter. And we ended two weeks ago by looking at the next stage of that trial in verses 19 through 24. Well, this morning we’re going to zero in on the final mention of Peter’s denials in verses 25 through 27. The final mention of Peter’s denials.
Now we know what it’s like to be betrayed. If you’ve ever been in any sort of relationship or if you’ve ever lived a day in this world, you understand that people don’t always keep their word. People don’t always treat you like you want to be treated or think you deserve to be treated, and we kind of expect to be wronged at times.
The difficulty of being betrayed is even heightened when we are betrayed by someone who we believe loves us, who said that they love us. It’s one thing to be mistreated by “enemies.” But to be mistreated or betrayed by loved ones is a whole different thing altogether. And who knows this better than our Lord? Our Lord understands this. Those whom he’s saved, protected, guided, kept, loved, been patient with—those people, like us, are often ones who betray him or disassociate with him when it’s not convenient for us. And our Lord understands that.
And so as we look through verses 25 through 27 of John 18, I want to kind of separate this into two parts for us this morning. I want us to see two lessons to learn in order to keep from denying Jesus. There’s a lot to learn from Peter in these three verses. Two lessons to learn in order to keep us from denying Jesus.
1. Avoid the Wicked
Here’s the first lesson. And they won’t be on the PowerPoint. Forgive us, but just go back to the days before PowerPoint. Okay? Go back there in your mind. You can survive. You can do it. First lesson: Avoid the wicked. Avoid the wicked. We see this at the very beginning of verse 25. This is something that John is trying to teach us. Verse 25, the beginning says, “Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself.”
Oh, standing by a fire doesn’t seem like a big deal. Who doesn’t like a nice fire, especially this time of year. Well, what’s the harm in that? Well John has taught us a couple of times about standing with sinners. He told us in verse 18 that Peter was standing warming himself by a charcoal fire. John is describing the fire for some reason. He wants us to understand that Peter was standing by a fire. He wants us to understand that it was a charcoal fire. He wants us to think about Peter choosing to stand, to comfort himself in the middle of enemies of God. John’s trying to draw our attention to where Peter is standing.
Do you remember in the garden during the arrest of Jesus, it mentioned that Judas was standing, not with Christ, but with them. This is John’s way of saying Peter, for a time, was standing, not with Christ, but with them. John’s trying to get us to see that Peter is putting himself into company with evil. Mark tells us that Peter was warming himself. Luke tells us that they kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together and Peter—listen to what Luke says—was sitting among them.
This is an important point. This is important not just so we notice what happened 2,000 years ago. It’s important to understand what we can be tempted of—putting ourselves in the place of evil. And the Scriptures speak a lot about this reality, do they not? From Old Testament to New Testament, be careful of the company that you keep. Do not think that you will always be stronger than the company you keep.
I’ll give you a couple of examples of this in a moment. But Peter chose to sit with a dangerous crowd. Spurgeon said that they were “rough servants of ill masters.” But Peter was cold, and he was willing to risk it because he needed some warmth. The group he’s around are simply a means to tempt him. The group he’s around are not the reasons that he fell.
That’s like any temptation to us. You can never blame sin on someone else. Someone else may have tempted you, and that’s wrong, but you’re the one that gave in or I’m the one that gave in. We can never blame our sin on someone else. We can acknowledge that they were a means of temptation, but Peter’s the one who sinned. And he placed himself in a tempting situation.
Common teaching in the Bible is that you will be influenced by what and whom you are around. You will be influenced by what and whom you are around.
Peter is not a mature believer at this time. He’s an immature believer. Immature believers do not think that they will fall. I can go there. I can be with him. I can be with her. I can do that thing, and I’ll be fine. And then, as time plays itself out, it turns out that they were not fine. They were tempted greatly.
So, Peter thinks first about his comfort and therefore places himself into the company of the enemies of Christ. Now, can we think of other times in the Scripture that this idea is talked about? How about the very first sin in the Bible—Genesis 3?
Eve, who for so long is used to listening to God, walking and talking, communing with God, along with her husband Adam, for a moment starts to place herself in the company of the adversary of God—Satan. And Satan is speaking to Eve and she’s without her husband. Evidently God’s physical presence was not with her in the garden at that point, but she’s there alone and the serpent is speaking to her. She’s placing herself into a risky environment, and she gives in.
Psalm 1—the Psalmist begins the hymn book of Israel by saying “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers.” There is a blessing, there is a joy that comes with not being around scoffers and sinners and being influenced by what they say and do—or the wicked.
Proverbs 4:14. Proverbs—written by the wisest man to ever live according to the Scriptures. The wisest man to ever live, Solomon, teaches his son, begs his son, to learn wisdom. Son, listen to what I’m saying. Listen to what the Lord would say. Proverbs 4:14: “Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of evil.” Avoid it. Do not go into to it. Turn away from it and pass on. That’s a lot of commands in staccato fashion in just two verses. Do not go into their way. Do not walk with them. Avoid it.
1 Corinthians 15:33: “Do not be deceived …” Do not be tricked; do not be fooled. “Do not be deceived: Bad company ruins good morals.” There’s a call all throughout the Scriptures to avoid the wicked. Well, what about evangelism? Don’t we need to engage the wicked? Yes, but you avoid the areas where you will be led into temptation, and you never think that you are strong. You always know that you’re vulnerable.
So, yes, we engage the world, but we do not sit and listen and seat ourselves in the place of scoffers. We do not learn from them.
Spurgeon said this:
Peter was on dangerous ground. When his master was being buffeted, he was trying to make himself comfortable. We read of the high priest’s servants that they warmed themselves, and Peter stood with them and warmed himself. He stood with them, and they were rough servants of ill masters. He was in bad company and he was a man who could not afford to be in bad company, for he was so impulsive and so easily provoked to rash actions.
So how do you learn from Peter? I would encourage you this way, and it might not be a comfortable thing to think about: See yourself as weak. Now that goes against everything that you’re taught on the television, everything that you’re taught in school or whatever it may be. You’re supposed to see yourself as strong. I can pick myself up by my bootstraps. I can make a great name for myself. I can do whatever I want. But I’m saying see yourself as spiritually weak. Spiritually weak.
It’s the ones that think that they are always spiritually strong that stop praying like they should. That stop reading and meditating like they should. That stop going to Christ for help. This was Peter. He’d been physically around Christ for three years, and every time Christ sought to give him a warning, he’d say something rash, wouldn’t he?
I’ll never deny you. You’ll deny me. I’ll never deny you. Peter always thought that he was stronger than he actually was. Jesus warned Peter just a couple hours before this. Maybe not even two hours before this. Jesus was in the garden. Before he was arrested, he went off to pray and he asked the disciples to pray with him. And he said watch and pray lest you fall into temptation. Peter didn’t watch. He didn’t pray.
Now, if he would have thought that he really needed to watch and pray or else he might deny Christ, he probably would have, but he thought he was so strong. He could endure anything. No need to watch. No need to pray. I’m tired.
Jesus told him that you’ll deny me three times. Peter said that he wouldn’t. So Peter is going against what Christ has told him about himself. You’ll deny me three times. I’ll never deny you. Watch and pray. And by Peter’s own actions—I don’t need to watch and pray. The Lord Jesus Christ does not want us to think we’re spiritually sufficient apart from him.
That’s why he told the disciples just earlier in the upper room, apart from me you can do nothing. See yourself as weak. See yourself as impotent, not able to be powerful in the face of threats. Peter didn’t get this. This is also the teaching of the apostles. 1 Corinthians 10:12, Paul says, “let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed [pay attention] lest he fall.”
You may be known, I may be known, for physical strength. I’m actually not known for physical strength. You may be known for physical strength, but you’re spiritually vulnerable. You may be known for financial success, you’re spiritually vulnerable. You may be known for educational achievement, you are spiritually vulnerable. You may be known for physical beauty, you’re spiritually vulnerable. You may be known for great theological understanding, you are spiritually vulnerable.
What’s the logical response to understanding that you are weak? You ask for help. You depend on the strength of another. And this is what it means to be a follower of Christ. Every single day, I don’t care how long we’ve been in the faith—two minutes, two decades—every single day we are dependent on the strength of Christ to overcome temptation. Little temptations and big temptations.
Peter didn’t believe that evidently at this time. It’s good to have an accurate view of ourselves. Maturity you can say is this: being aware. If you are aware of who you are and the limitations you have, that’s maturity. A mature person knows that they need Christ all the time. “Lord, I need you. Every hour I need you. My one defense, my righteousness, Lord, how I need you.” That’s the idea.
Peter didn’t think that he needed any help. If Christ said that he would deny him, evidently Christ was wrong. I would never deny you. I’m stronger than that. It’s good to know your own weaknesses. In the 8th grade I wanted to be an NBA basketball player. Immature thinking. It’s good to be aware of your weaknesses, your limitations, spiritually. It’s essential. So see yourself as vulnerable and avoid the wicked.
Now, it’s good to prepare for temptation. I hope that as we go out we’re thinking of the environments that we might too often place ourselves in, which we really should not place ourselves in. We should really avoid certain company, avoid certain relationships or doing a certain relationship in a certain way. Maybe there’s a different way to approach that relationship.
Maybe it’s a romantic relationship. Instead of engaging in that, maybe it really should be an evangelistic relationship or something of that sort. We need to understand the environments that we place ourselves into that often tempt us.
2. Stand with Jesus
Number two—first, avoid the wicked. Second lesson to learn from Peter is stand with Jesus. Peter didn’t do this, so we’re going to talk for a little bit about doing that. Stand with Jesus. Because sometimes you can’t avoid wicked, temptation. You can do your best and you can try and you can make some good decisions, but there are times where we’re just going to be tempted out of the blue. You couldn’t have expected it.
So when that happens, what do you do? You stand. You stand with Christ. Verse 25 continues:
So they said to him, “You also are not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” Peter again denied it, and at once a rooster crowed.
They asked if he identified with Jesus, and Peter says that he does not. If Peter could take anything back, this would be it. The Lord who had done so much for him, so much for him—saved him from the eternal wrath of God, called him to himself, called him into a relationship with the most loving God. That’s what Jesus did for him. Jesus had done so much for Peter, and when pressed he chose his own personal comfort or personal popularity versus being disgraced or even mocked. Peter chose to stand with himself rather than stand with Christ.
Peter denies identification with Christ. Peter’s afraid of the servants. Now, why would Peter be afraid of this question? Well, because we notice who one of the people that asked him this question was—one of the servants of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off. Now when someone cuts off your relative’s ear, you don’t think fondly of them. So Peter realizes that this is a relative, or John realizes this that somehow Peter might have been afraid that this person might have said, you cut off my cousin’s ear, my brother’s ear, and they would immediately want justice.
Plus, we learn earlier in John that there is a decree from Israel, from the leaders of Israel that if anyone knew where Jesus was, they were supposed to bring him to the authorities. Peter knew where Jesus was after that decree. He was with Jesus. And he disobeyed them. He wouldn’t bring Jesus to them, wouldn’t turn him over like Judas did. So there’s a lot that Peter could be indicted for here.
Peter thinks more about preserving himself than about the one he says that he loves. Peter thinks more about self-preservation than staying committed to Christ until the end. Peter says, I’ll never deny you, and then he not only denies him once, but twice, three times. So Peter denies Christ first earlier on, according to John, now here two more times, and the rooster crows.
And that was prophesied by Christ. He told Peter that the rooster would crow after Peter denied him three times. In the moment, Peter would have overcome if faithfulness to Christ was more important than other things. Peter could have stood with Christ. He could have.
Because later on starting in Acts 2 we see Peter preach this amazing sermon probably in the company of people who literally crucified his Lord. And all of a sudden out of nowhere Peter is bold for Christ. Why? Because he believed in the resurrection now. He knew that even if he would suffer, there was something in the future that was awaiting him. Even if he would die, there was new life coming. So Peter’s confident.
You can’t thwart someone who believes in the resurrection. But at this point in Peter’s denial, he’s not thinking about resurrection. He’s thinking about comfort even if he’s arrested. He’s thinking simply about himself. In that moment Peter would have overcome if faithfulness to Christ was more important than his own personal comfort.
He would have overcome if faithfulness to Christ was more important than acceptance from the enemies of God. But he’s around the enemies of God, and he would rather be accepted by them than stand with Christ. Peter would have overcome if faithfulness to Christ was more important than self-preservation. But Peter’s often like us, selfishly thinking about our own comfort or popularity rather than standing with Christ.
So how do you stand if you find yourself in the midst of temptation? You can try to be on guard against temptation. You can avoid evil, flee from evil, do all you can, but there’s still evil. We still have the flesh, so when we’re tempted, how do we stand?
I believe application can be made from Hebrews, chapter 12. Stand by seeing future joy. Take abuse by seeing future joy. Take harsh treatment by seeing the future joy. Take criticism and stand with Christ by seeing future joy. If you focus on immediate criticism, immediate pain, immediate unpopularity, then you’ll give in. But if you focus on standing with Christ in the midst of all that because of future joy and future reward and future promise and future hope, that will give you endurance. That will cause you to stand.
Listen to Hebrews 12:1-3:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus …
So there’s a lot of sin around us. There’s a lot of things that cling to us. We need to run with endurance. Peter didn’t run with endurance. He gave in. He was running the race and pulled over, gave in, threw in the towel at this point. How do we run with endurance? Standing firm, standing strong, even with all the difficulties. Verse 2: looking to Jesus. We learn from Jesus. How did Jesus endure temptation? How did Jesus endure even in the midst of criticism?
… looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross …
Translate that to your life. Who for the joy set before you endured the criticism from co-workers. Who for the joy set before you endured the criticism from classmates. Who for the joy set before you endured the criticism from the people that you walk with or shoot guns with or have hobbies with that want you to stifle your talk about Christ. For the joy set before you, you will endure their criticism as you stay committed to Christ, as you stand strong for him.
… looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
And then Hebrews 12:3 says this:
Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
The writer of Hebrews wants us to associate ourselves with the vulnerable and the weak and to be like Christ in those moments. Christ was tempted and endured because of the joy set before him. He despised the shame. People mocked him, put a crown of thorns on him, laughed at him, spit at him. Despised the shame.
The shame that he was receiving was very little compared to the joy set before him. He looked at the cross, and he saw joy beyond the cross. He looked at the shame and saw joy beyond the shame. He looked at the suffering and saw joy beyond the suffering and reward. Same way we’re to live.
When you have those discussions with friends and you know those moments when the Holy Spirit puts into your mind that I should take a stand for Christ here. I should speak up here. And we don’t because we’re thinking more about not suffering than faithfulness to him. We think more about ourselves than his glory.
What if we were so jealous for his glory that we said the truth when it needed to be said? We took a stand for him when a stand needed to be taken. And we trusted. I’m going to suffer and that’s okay. When we start thinking that suffering is not okay, that’s when we’re in trouble. It’s okay that we suffer. It’s okay that we’re criticized. It’s okay that we’re mocked. It’s okay that people say we don’t want to talk to you. You’re not welcome in our group if you keep talking like that. It’s okay. Our life is for Christ not for ourselves.
Is not he worthy of that? He suffered shame for us and lived to tell about it. We can suffer shame for him and live to tell about his faithfulness to us even in that suffering.
There’s a story about a Romanian pastor, Josef Tson, who was imprisoned for his faith and imprisoned for his preaching. This was back in the cold war era, and six men were interrogating Pastor Josef and questioning him and threatening him. And Pastor Josef told them,
If you kill me, people will know why you killed me. And my sermons will spread even faster and further than they did before.
And then he told them this:
I will actually rejoice in this supreme victory if you kill me.
And then Pastor Josef said this, reflecting on that time:
After I said this, the interrogators sent me home. Another officer who was interrogating a pastor friend of mine told him, we know that Mr. Tson would love to be a martyr, but we are not foolish enough to fulfill his wish.
Pastor Josef said this:
I stopped to consider the meaning of that statement. I remember how for many years I had been afraid of dying. I kept a low profile because I wanted badly to live. I had wasted my life in inactivity.
Hear that. Fear of man caused this pastor to view his previous life as wasted because he was so afraid of what men could do to him.
I had wasted my life in inactivity, but now that I had placed my life on the altar and decided I was ready to die for the gospel, they were telling me that they would not kill me. I could go wherever I wanted in the country and preach whatever I wanted knowing I was safe. As long as I tried to save my life I was losing it. Now that I was willing to lose it, I found it.
That’s a great way to live. So brothers and sisters, when the world tempts us to deny our association to Christ, self-preservation is a deadly idol. Self-preservation will keep us from being faithful to Christ, will keep us from standing for Christ. Self-preservation will rob Christ of the glory that he’s due. Christ is so amazing. He deserves people who are threatened—his children, his brothers and sisters who are threatened—to stand for him and say, but he is great. You can do whatever you want to me. I trust in him.
That magnifies him. When we say I can endure you, classmates, mocking me because I trust him, that shows him off. That shows how great he is. And people scratch their heads and think this Christ must be something if he’s willing to endure what most other teenagers won’t endure—the mocking of their peers. It must say something about Christ when we endure criticism and people rolling their eyes at us and laughing at us. And family members gossiping about us because of what we said at Thanksgiving dinner.
When we endure and stand for Christ, that glorifies him. That makes much of him. And are we not in the business of making much of him? That’s why we’re here. Self-preservation is a horrible idol that must be destroyed. Self-preservation or standing with Christ. Self-preservation or joy in Christ. Self-preservation or trusting in Christ. Those are the options.
Co-workers will tempt us to be less than enthusiastic about Christ. Hopefully not mine. I work at a church. But perhaps yours. Friends who you have hobbies with and have relationships with will want you to distance yourself from a passionate devotion to Christ when you’re with them. And they don’t say that, but it’s an unspoken rule in your circle of friends. Don’t be too passionate about Jesus.
Maybe as I mentioned earlier a romantic interest that tempts us to distant ourselves from Christ rather than a romantic interest that causes us to pursue Christ all the more. Stand with Christ in all those situations. We have opportunities to stand with Christ every single week. Self-preservation—listen—self-preservation can go to hell. Self-preservation is an evil idol.
Our old man has died. We’ve hidden ourselves in Christ. We want the preservation that comes from his security, not the world’s security. That’s what we need.
So I’m telling you avoid the wicked, stand with Christ. But guess what. None of us do that perfectly, do we? We’re Peter, not Jesus. Jesus after going without food for 40 days and 40 nights didn’t just endure the temptations of the liberal media. He endured the temptations of the Father of Lies, Satan himself. And he endured it all for us so we can get credit for that.
We’re not like him in that sense. We’re like Peter. Sometimes faithful as Peter sometimes was. You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. Faithful Peter. And unfaithful Peter here in John 18:25-27. We’re Peter.
So what do we do when we don’t avoid the wicked like we should? When we don’t stand with Christ like we should? What do we do?
I’m glad you asked. Two things. Number one: mourn. M-O-U-R-N. Mourn. Peter denies Christ, hears the rooster crow. Place yourself in Peter’s shoes. You denied the person who’s been so good to you. You denied the only one that can save you from the wrath of God. You denied him. Not once but three times in a short period of time. You denied him. He told you, you would, and you hear the rooster crow. Imagine how your heart would sink.
Peter didn’t just hear something that convicted him. In this moment he also saw something that convicted him. Turn to Luke 22. John doesn’t tell us about this part of the story, but the other writers do. Luke does. Luke 22, verse 60, here’s Peter’s final denial.
But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.
Evidently, they were shuffling Jesus from one part of the trial to the next, and when the final denial happened and the rooster crowed, Jesus was somewhere where his eyes could meet Peter’s. Peter hears the rooster, sees the face of Jesus. I wonder what that facial expression from our Lord looked like. Probably disappointment. Like a father who loves his child who’s severely disappointed by the actions of his child. Disappointment.
And what does that look cause for Peter. The tears well up and he wept bitterly. This is heavy, intense weeping. And you know what, this look from Jesus is grace. This is grace. Because when conviction of sin comes to a sinner, it is grace. The worst thing that could happen to Peter was not this. The worst thing is for Peter to deny Christ three times, hear the rooster crow, think nothing of it. See the face of Jesus, think nothing of it.
Think of Judas. Judas brought the guards to arrest Jesus knowing that Jesus would be put to death, and he looks at Jesus straight in the face and kisses him. No conviction of sin in the moment. Later on, Judas would be convicted. More about that in a moment.
But this look from Jesus brings conviction, and here’s what we say a lot here: Conviction of sin should lead to confession of sin, which should lead to forgiveness of sin, which should lead to rejoicing. Conviction of sin is just the beginning in a chain that leads to joy. We say this a lot here.
The prodigal was convicted about his sin. Went to his father and said, Father, I’ve sinned against heaven and against you. The father throws a party for him. Restores him. Forgives him. And he’s now a son of the father. Conviction of sin is good if it’s followed by confession, and joy comes from turning. The reward is joy from heaven.
Peter looks at the face of Jesus and weeps bitterly. Mourning over sin is good. Matthew 5:4: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” And this is what Jesus is talking about. It’s not just you’ve had a sad day. It’s that you’re mourning because of who you are in your condition. Blessed are those who mourn. Blessed—you can translate it happy. Happy are those who mourn. Doesn’t seem logical. But when you mourn over your sin, there can be comfort. And this is good.
So Peter sees the face of Christ and weeps bitterly. Now, I told you Judas also later on felt horrible about his sin, did he not? And he went and hanged himself. What’s the difference between Peter and Judas? So far, not much. Both betrayed Christ. Both refused to stand with Christ. Both gave in to the world’s temptations.
Judas lured by perhaps money. I think he was angry at Christ because of what happened when he rebuked Mary when she anointed the feet of Jesus. Because as soon as Jesus rebuked him publicly in that house, Judas went away and went to the chief priests. So I think Judas is angry. He wants money that comes from betrayal, and he denies Christ.
Peter wants self-preservation, doesn’t want to be arrested, doesn’t want to be killed, so he denies Christ. So far, they look a lot alike. But there’s a difference. They both weep over their sin. Feeling bad about sin doesn’t make you a Christian. It’s where you go when you feel bad about your sin.
Judas hanged himself, wanted to get it all over with. Peter, we’ll learn later on in John, literally swims to Christ. Goes to Christ. Is broken over his sin. Just wait till we get to John 21. Christ restores him. Peter went to Christ.
Listen to 2 Corinthians 7:9-10. This is the difference between Judas and Peter. Again, being sorry about your sin is not the complete response to your sin. Being sorry about your sin and going to Christ is the response. Listen to 2 Corinthians 7:9-10:
As it is, I rejoice [Paul’s saying this to the Corinthians], not because you were grieved [I’m not just happy that you were sad], but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation [and you could put the picture of Peter right there] without regret, whereas worldly grief [Judas] produces death.
So grief is good, but it’s not complete. Mourning over sin is good, but it’s not complete. You have to go to Jesus and say, Lord, I’ve sinned against you. I’ve denied you. I’ve wronged you. Will you forgive me? And he says in John 6:37 the one who comes to me I will in no way cast out.
So it’s not enough to mourn. But mourning is essential. So mourn, and number two—if you deny Christ in any part of your life, sometime this week, sometime last week, mourn over sin and, number two—turn or repent. Mourn and turn.
You’re already in Luke 22. Notice Luke 22, verse 31. Now, understand what Luke 22:31 is talking about. This is Jesus talking to Peter before, so rewind the tape. Before Peter denies him, before Christ would specifically tell him that you’re going to deny me—this is before all that.
And here’s what Jesus says to Peter. “Simon, Simon,” listen. “Satan demanded to have you.” What’s interesting is we’re told earlier that Satan entered himself into Judas. So Satan also is demanding not just Judas but Peter. “Satan demanded to have you, that he may sift you like wheat,”—destroy you. Verse 32: “but I have prayed for you …” Peter’s different. “[B]ut I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.”
And then Jesus says this: “And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” This is so fascinating. Jesus says that you will endure, Peter, because I’ve prayed for you, and you will not fail. And then we say, but Peter did fail. Jesus is not saying I’m praying for you, you’ll never commit a sin ever in your life. That’s not what he’s saying. He’s saying that you will never finally fail, fall away from me, be taken by Satan forever. You’re secure in that.
We know that because the very next sentence in verse 32 Jesus says, and when you have turned. So Peter did something wrong and he needs to repent from it, turn from it. So Jesus is saying, Peter, you will not finally fail. I’ve prayed for you. But when you’ve turned—insert in parentheses (after you’ve stumbled, not finally fallen but stumbled)—after you’ve stumbled, when you turn, strengthen your brethren.
And that’s what we see in John 21 later on. I’m risking preaching the sermon early, but here we go. John 21. When Jesus restores himself to Peter, he asks him three times (do you think that’s significant?) do you love me? Peter, do you love me? Yes, Lord, I love you. Do you love me? Yes, Lord, I love you. Do you love me? Yes, Lord, I love you. Isn’t it good that was three times? Three denials.
And then Jesus tells Peter to go and feed his lambs, strengthen your brothers. This is what a forgiven sinner does. This is what David does in Psalm 51. You forgive me and I will teach transgressors your ways. When you’re forgiven, you want to help people who need to be forgiven, who need to trust Christ.
And Peter mourns over sin, and he is taught; before he even denies Christ, he’s taught by Christ. Hey, listen, after you’ve fallen, turn and strengthen your brothers. So that’s why I say the application to denying Christ—if you’ve denied him in some little way or some big way this week—mourn over your sin and turn. Mourn and turn.
So based on this message from Peter, avoid the wicked, stand with Jesus, and if you find yourself not doing that perfectly, there’s hope. There’s good news. Mourn over your sin and turn from it. Repent. Mourn over your sin. Go to Christ. Repent.
Peter’s not in heaven right now because he perfectly stood with Christ all the time. Peter’s in heaven right now because he went to Christ when he didn’t, and Christ forgave him and restored himself to him. It’s the same reasons we’ll be in heaven. Not because we always stood in every moment, even though we’re called to do that. We’ll be in heaven because of the restoring love of Jesus Christ.
There’s some space between John 18:25-27 and John 21. There’s some time that elapsed even after Jesus arose from the dead and restored Peter to himself. There’s some time. Peter probably felt guilty, perhaps depressed. Some have deduced from John 21 that maybe he thought about going back to his life of fishing.
Peter is not in a great state until John 21, and I wonder what was rolling around in the head of Peter. I failed him. He said I would. I thought I was strong. How can he ever love me again? I wonder what Peter would be thinking.
I wonder if that’s how many of you might be thinking. I always disappoint him. I never do what I’m supposed to. I wonder if he really loves me. I wonder how he feels about me.
Maybe it’s good to have Scripture roll around in our head a little bit. Maybe it was good for Peter to remember things that Jesus said to him earlier, like the one who comes to me I will never cast out. That’s what should be rolling around in our heads if we’ve denied Christ. If we’ve denied Christ maybe John 13:1 should roll around in our heads for a while. “[H]aving loved his own who were in the world …” Again, parentheses—dealing with the world, being fearful of the world, giving in sometimes to the world. “[H]aving loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.”
That’s how Jesus treats Peter when Peter is not faithful to Christ. That’s how Jesus treats you if you are in Christ, not based on your faithfulness, but based on his. What other savior do you know like this? There is none other. Let’s pray.
Lord Jesus, I framed this message about lessons to learn from Peter. I think that’s important for us to do, Lord, but maybe at the end of it all this should be a lesson about you and your love, your forgiving love, your sustaining love. Father, if there are those of us who have thought little of sin, been casual about it, thought you forgive it—no big deal—convict us of that. Treating sin lightly is not a characteristic of your children.
And Father, for those who have taken sin seriously, do mourn over their sin, do wish that they were more faithful to you, want to speak up for you more, want to avoid evil more, I pray that you would prompt them to go to Christ, to tell that to Christ, to confess it to Christ. Father, if that happens, I’m asking you, by the power of the Spirit, to bring great comfort to those who feel distant, those who feel separated, those who feel unfaithful. Restore us to yourself because of your love. Give us joy.
Father, my prayer for Canyon Prescott this week is that we would feel the weight, feel the vulnerability that we possess, feel our neediness, and to trust you, to go to you, to find security in you. Lord, it’s okay if people think that we are weak. We are. We’re Peter. But let them also know about our faithful and strong and victorious Lord. Lord, you are the hero of this passage. You’re the hero of our lives. May you be praised forever. Amen.
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