Summary: A look at the denial of the Apostle Peter.

The bigger they are the harder they fall – mark 14:26-72

One of the things that I enjoy doing is hiking or just going on walks in the woods. It’s quiet, peaceful, there is fresh air and it’s good to get a little exercise. One thing I notice in the woods is that there are a lot of fallen trees, and I have noticed again and again is that many of these tree’s tend to be very large. There just doesn’t seem to be very many small trees that have fallen over, rather the large ones. Why is that?

Well one reason is that in wet area’s the roots don’t go down very deep, they remain shallow so when a tree becomes very large and the wind blows hard the shallow roots cannot hold and the tree falls over ripping the roots right out of the ground. Another reason why many of the larger tree’s fall is because although they look strong and healthy on the outside, they have begun to rot on the inside and we’ve all heard the expression – “The bigger they are the harder they fall!”

That is a true statement.

It’s not only true with tree’s it is true with men as well, in particular godly men and their spirituality. Turn to 1 Corinthians 10:12-13 - Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

When you think your strong, when you become over confident, when you become boastful you better watch out! People often become overconfident and what goes along with that? Putting your faith in yourself as opposed to putting it in God. People become Arrogant and proud, often times they even let down their guard or they become complacent. Those things sometimes happen to those who are strong in the faith, because they think they can handle it. Beware – Proverbs 16:18 - Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.

Think of the godly men in Scripture who fell Spiritually – Noah was the most righteous man on earth, he had enough faith the build the ark and yet he spent the latter years of his life given over to wine. Aaron the brother of Moses compromised and gave into the will of the people and built the golden calf. David, the man after Gods own heart was led astray by selfishness and lust.

There are many other examples but all these temptations are common to man, these are common temptations, they shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone but isn’t it good that we have the assurance that God never gives us more than we can handle? We can never blame others for our own sin, the Bible teachers PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY! If you sin its because you chose to sin, God doesn’t temp us nor does he give us more than we can bear. Paul writes - but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

What he is saying is that we can overcome temptation, but we need to take heed! We need to listen and be on guard because although our spirit may be willing, our flesh is weak. Turn to Mark chapter 14:26 as we study the fall of the Apostle Peter.

And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written:

‘I will strike the Shepherd,

And the sheep will be scattered.’ 28 “But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.” 29 Peter said to Him, “Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be.”

30 Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you that today, even this night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.”

31 But he spoke more vehemently, “If I have to die with You, I will not deny You!”

And they all said likewise.

One of those things that amazes me about Peter is all the times when he would rebuke Jesus or just simply disagree with what he said. Jesus told Peter he was going to be crucified in Matthew 16 and Peter responded by saying “this shall never happen to you!” Jesus said to Peter “let me wash your feet” and Peter said “no way” “You won’t wash my feet” and then here Jesus tell Peter (and the others) that they will betray Him and Peter is the first to stand up and say! Not me! I will never betray you! The others, they might stumble and fall but not me! I would never do this, even if I have to die, I will not deny you!

The first lesson we learn is this: Don’t disagree with the Lord. Whatever He says is true. If you don’t think it’s true, you’re the one who is wrong for God is always right. Some people have their own opinion and while they are often fond of their own opinion if it contradicts the word of God, let me assure you. It’s wrong! Some people don’t ever think they are wrong, they think their always right, in fact their right so often – even when their wrong their right!

I know if I don’t clear this up right away my wife will have come comments for me on the way home. She claims that I think I’m always right, I don’t know where she gets this idea but let me just say publicly – for the record. I’m not perfect, I make mistakes, I’m not always right. But in all seriousness, we all know people who cannot admit when they are wrong. They don’t take advice, they always make excuses and even when they know they are wrong they are unlikely to admit it. Don’t be one of those people.

The Apostle Peter had such a strong personality, he had such confidence and zeal it actually became a determent. Jesus was trying to shape and mold him to where this passion and zeal would become an assent and this process of shaping, molding and growth is called discipleship. One of the problems however (at least for Peter and the others) was that in order for the Scripture to be fulfilled the Shepherd must be struck and once that happened the sheep would be scattered.

Jesus was their Shepherd, He was their Pastor and without a Pastor the sheep scatter. You know what happens often times when a Pastor resigns, when he retires or when he dies? When the Shepherd is struck (so to speak – The word Pastor means Shepherd) the sheep usually scatter. Those churches that have a revolving door where a new pastor comes and goes ever few years, those churches usually widdle away to nothing. Somebody has to lead, and if there is a void in the leadership there is nobody to follow so either everyone goes in different directions or there is a power struggle between those left over. The Apostles needed a Shepherd and so does every single church today, that hasn’t changed.

The reason why the disciples (the sheep) scattered is because there was nobody to lead them. Jesus was going to be taken from them and the void he left behind was not able to be filled, at least not at that moment. Later on the day of Pentecost Peter stood up and took that leadership role, Peter eventually was able to use those gifts to lead the disciples but at this moment Jesus knew that Peter was not ready.

Are you ready to lead? Maybe you’re not called to pastor a local church but are you ready to lead in your home? Are you ready to lead in a Bible study? Are you ready to be an example to others, somebody they can look up to. Are you using the gifts that God gave you for good, or do they at this moment work against you? Some things to think about...

So Jesus tells Peter and the others of their betrayal, Peter is insistent that these things shall not happen and what does Jesus say to him Assuredly, I say to you that today, even this night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times. Why 3 times? 3 is a significant number in the Bible – Jesus was give 3 gifts at His birth, Gold frankincense & Myrrh, His ministry lasted a little over 3 years, he had 3 in His inner circle (Peter, James & John), there were 3 on the cross, Jesus and the 2 thieves, He rose after 3 days, there are 3 members of the trinity Father, Son and Holy Spirit and I’m sure we could go on and on and on…

Is there any significance to the 3 denials? Later on we will see this number appear again in the Gospel of John but let me speculate by saying this. I think Jesus told Peter it would be 3 times because He knew Peter would be at his lowest point. He knew Peter’s faith would be put to the test. If something happens once maybe it’s a coincidence. Twice is a little harder to explain but 3 times, that’s no longer a coincidence – I believe one of the reasons was Jesus wanted Peter to remember “3 times” so when it came to pass Peter would know to trust Jesus’s words.

Peter had a hard time now and again trusting what Jesus said. It’s not that he didn’t want to believe, it’s not that Peter didn’t love the Lord but he is like us, from time to time his faith wavered and he needed that assurance and encouragement, the encouragement that Jesus really is in control, He really does know best and as long as we remain faithful to Him we have nothing to fear. Peter didn’t learn these lessons on his own, he had to go through the testing and he came out stronger because of it.

Now let’s skip ahead a little bit, we know how Jesus was betrayed by Judas and was arrested. Mark 14:53

53 And they led Jesus away to the high priest; and with him were assembled all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes. 54 But Peter followed Him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. And he sat with the servants and warmed himself at the fire.

Mark 14:66 Now as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came. 67 And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with Jesus of Nazareth.”

68 But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you are saying.” And he went out on the porch, and a rooster crowed.

69 And the servant girl saw him again, and began to say to those who stood by, “This is one of them.” 70 But he denied it again.

I’ve heard several preachers mention how sad it was that the bold, tough, rugged Peter was reduced to a coward before a little servant girl. The same thing has been said about Elijah, that he was willing to stand up to the 450 prophets of Baal but when Jezebel came after him the mighty Elijah ran away and hid from a woman, how sad. I suppose that makes for a good story even though now a days you will be accused of misogyny for making such statements. But was Peter really afraid of a servant girl? Why did he deny knowing Jesus?

Obviously Jesus had just been arrested, Peter knew he would likely be put to death and he figured after they got done with Jesus he would be next! Don’t be too hard on Peter after all what would you do? You might say “I would never betray the Lord, I don’t care what I was up against, I would remain faithful!” - THAT’S WHAT PETER SAID! You say, “But I’m serious, I would be faithful!” Again that’s what Peter said!

You never know how you would react until you’re in that situation and we shouldn’t boast about how strong and mighty we are , we shouldn’t boast about how Spiritual we are and how we are more faithful than everyone else. If you have to boast about it, that probably only proves you’re not as Spiritual as you think. The Apostle Paul said “let he who boast, boast in the Lord!” If you want to boast about strength, faithfulness and righteousness boast in the Lord or pray for those things but beware – let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. The greater the pride, the greater the fall!

So twice Peter denies even knowing Jesus, even though the rooster crowed it either doesn’t dawn on him or he’s so afraid it didn’t matter. Verse 70

And a little later those who stood by said to Peter again, “Surely you are one of them; for you are a Galilean, and your speech shows it.”

Whether it was his accent or just the type of speech he used he obviously felt he was really in danger for we read in verse 71 Then he began to curse and swear, “I do not know this Man of whom you speak!”

The great Apostle became indignant I DO NOT KNOW THIS MAN! After they heard his words they probably believed him, people had an expectation, even back then that believers wouldn’t use such profane language, then: 72 A second time the rooster crowed. Then Peter called to mind the word that Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.” And when he thought about it, he wept.

Matthew’s Gospel records it this way – He went out and wept bitterly. Such a strong personality, such great faith, such passion and zeal, such a great man – but at the end of the day Peter was exactly that – just a man, a great man but just a man, and every man woman and child faces some sort of temptation.

The Bible says that the sins of the father are visited upon the children up until the third and fourth generation – Jacob was at times a poor father and it had a great affect upon his sons for many of them were violent and out of control. King David had a great fall and it affected his entire family and the entire nation of Israel. Peter seemed to be on that same course – when Jesus was arrested he took out his sword and was ready to kill, when Peter was threatened he denied Christ and began to curse and swear, without repentance and restoration the story of Peter would have been sad and tragic, but thankfully that’s not how things turned out.

Turn to John 21:15-19 After the Resurrection Jesus ministered and appeared to many over a period of 40 days before He ascended to heaven. John 21 records one of the appearances Jesus made to the disciples and in this passage he gives special attention to Peter, restoring him to fellowship as well as giving him charge over the flock in Jerusalem.

John 21:15 So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” Commentators debate who or what Jesus is referring to here, some feel Jesus is referring to the fish since Peter went back to fishing for a time so in that case Jesus would be saying “Peter do you love the fishing more than you love me?” Are you more committed to being a fisherman or are you more committed to being a fisher of men like I have called you to be. Perhaps that is what Jesus is saying.

Or maybe Jesus is saying: Peter do you love me more than these (as in the other disciples). Remember what Peter said to start with - Even if all the others are made to stumble, yet I will not. They might all leave you Lord BUT NOT ME! Even if I have to die I will not deny you!

Either way Jesus asks Peter if he loves him and he uses a strong Greek word for love meaning total commitment. Peter responds back using a word for love showing less than total commitment. Peter replies - “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My lambs.” What does he mean by “feed my lambs?” Essentially Jesus is saying “Shepherd my flock”

So it’s like Jesus says Peter, do you LOVE me? Yes Lord, I kind of love you. Then Pastor my flock.

16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I (kind of) love You.” He said to him, “Pastor My flock.”

17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you (even kind of) 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 all things; You know that I love You.” I think Peter was afraid to come out and claim total commitment because he knew what happened the last time he boasted about his commitment.

Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep. – Pastor my Flock! Why does Jesus goes through all of this? Peter denied Jesus three times therefore Jesus asked him “do you love me” three times. This process grieved Peter but take note – not only did Jesus ask him this question 3 times Jesus also says Feed my sheep 3 times! Peter was not only restored he was given the greatest responsibility the Lord could have given him.

It is generally accepted that the birth of the church (so to speak) was at Pentecost. If that is true then who would we say was the first Pastor to preach at the first church service? It was Peter who rose up said to the people - “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”

40 And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” 41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. 42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers

What do we learn from this? #1 If a great and mighty man like Peter can stumble and fall, we should never allow ourselves to become overconfident or prideful in our own strength lest we fall also.

#2 If you have stumbled we see that there is forgiveness, for anyone can be restored to fellowship.

# 3 if God can use a common fisherman like Peter to save 3000 souls in one day, what can God do through you? The only question is the question that Jesus asked Simon “Do you love me?” If the answer is yes and you are willing to follow Him there is no limit to what God is able to do.