Sermon Illustrations

A rooster’s crow announced the dawn. This dawn was not the sunrise, still hours away, but the dawn of Peter’s realization of what he had done. Like the first rays of the sun slicing through the night’s darkness, Peter awakened to his sin and its gravity. It cut him to the core of his being, and he went out and wept bitterly. And with those tears, the rehabilitation of Simon Peter began.

In his anguish, Peter may have reflected on the words of another broken man, King David of Israel, who in the agony of realized sin but with hope in his heart, wrote, “a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” If Peter did, he found David’s words to be true.

Peter’s sin would not define him, as Judas’ did. He rose to heights he could not have imagined at the time he heard the rooster crow. Jesus had already told him, “to you will I give the keys of the kingdom of heaven,” signifying that he would be the first to declare the gospel to a world that would have been forever lost without it. Even after Peter’s denial and the Lord’s death and resurrection, Jesus told him “shepherd my sheep.” He would write two priceless letters that would make their way into the sacred scriptures – words that still bless millions today.

The key to Peter’s rehabilitation was his willingness – no, his passionate desire – to accept the free gift of forgiveness he knew he did not deserve, and to become what he knew God wanted him to be.

Jesus knew in advance that all this would happen. Before going to the garden of Gethsemane where he would be arrested, he said to Peter, "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers." I suggest that Jesus prayer for Peter’s faith was not that Peter wouldn’t deny him, for he immediately afterward told Peter he would do so; but that Peter would find the way back - he would “turn again.”

There is a way back from sin. It is easy to find and easy to take, with the main impediments residing within ourselves: “I just don’t want to give up my life as it is,” “my sins are too great,” “I can’t maintain the life God requires,” or “I’m not worth saving.” Judas Iscariot may have had similar thoughts, but such is an insult to God, whose grace is greater than every sin since Adam’s. If sin were greater than God, it would be sin, not God, we should worship. But God is greater and through Jesus’ work has conquered sin.

Have I, by words, thoughts, or deeds, denied Jesus? Am I willing to abandon sin and be lifted above it rather than be destroyed by it? Has Satan demanded permission to sift me like wheat? Is a rooster crowing for me?

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