Summary: Expository sermon uses clip from movie "Stand and Deliver". From Peter’s experience discusses our response to set backs.
Hitting Bottom: Peter’s Denial
Fortifying the Foundations # 39
I want to begin this morning with a clip from the movie “Stand & Deliver.”
The movie is based upon the true story of a math teacher, named Jamie Escalante. Through his leadership, a group of inner city students at East Los Angeles Garfield High School rise to excellence on the National Advanced Calculus Exam. “All’s well that ends well” and by the end of the movie their hard work pays off.
But the scene we are going to watch comes in the middle of the movie right after they have suffered a major set back. The students have taken the test and scored extremely high. But the authorities accuse them of cheating and disqualify the scores. In this scene Escalante has hit rock bottom emotionally and feels like giving up.
Show clip Ch 9 0:40:35 to 0:43:44.
I showed that clip because I do not want us to approach Peter’s denial without some since of his emotional state at the time. While Jesus was being brought before Annas for interrogation, Peter was also facing his own trial—the trying of his faith—a trial Jesus had predicted only a few hours earlier. Do you remember the conversation Jesus had with Peter when the Lord warned him that Satan had asked to shift him like wheat? Here in John 18 that sifting is taking place. Here in John 18 Peter denies the Lord three times. Here in John 18 Peter hits bottom!
Do you know what it means to “hit bottom”? Anyone who has struggled to overcome an addition knows what it means to hit bottom. Often when a person is giving his or her testimony at a twelve-step program the individual will refer to a time when he or she hit bottom and knew something had to change. Anyone who has dealt with discouragement and despair knows what it is to hit bottom. Anyone like who has given his very best and still failed, like Jamie Escalante, knows what it feels like to hit bottom.
I. What kind of person is this hitting bottom in our text?
1. Peter is a sincere, dedicated follower of Jesus. Does your theology have any room for a sincere follower of Jesus to hit bottom? Some people can’t see that happening. Like Job’s friends they have very simple take on life. If you’re godly and love the Lord, you will prosper, you will succeed, you will climb and not fall.
But I want us to realize that Peter is not climbing up the ladder of success here in our story. No, he is falling headlong into failure and experiencing an emotional crash that is hard to imagine.
I can understand Judas’ betrayal. Judas had hardened his heart all along. At the core of his very being he was a thief. He was not trying to serve the Lord. He was trying to use the Lord for his own ends. There is no sincerity in the heart of Judas. There is no devotion to Christ, only a cold, hard heart of unbelief.
But Peter is different. He really does love the Lord. He really is trying to do what’s right. Who has tried any harder than Peter to follow his Lord? Peter is a man after God’s own heart. How can it be that a person with such sincere motives could find himself at such a point of failure? If he really loved the Lord, how could he possibly deny him three times?
I must first establish this truth. Sincere, dedicated people can and sometimes do fail the Lord. David was a man after God’s own heart. The terrible sin he committed is almost unmentionable. How would the media handle it today if it were discovered that President George Bush had gotten involved in an adulterous affair with the wife of one of his top generals and to add insult to injury had the man killed? David’s sin was an unimaginable crime and it was perpetrated by a man anointed by the Holy Spirit to write most of the Psalms. Could I just say that life is a little more complicated than we would like it to be?
Sometimes good people act out of character. When Abraham lied to Pharaoh about his wife, Sarah, he was acting out of character. Abraham was not a habitual liar. He was by and large a man of great integrity. But in that situation he blew it and blew it big. In the New Testament God does not call Abraham a liar. He calls him a man of faith.
In all these cases there were negative consequences that followed the sin. Nobody gets away with anything. If you were to ask King David if his sexual fling was worth it he would tell you, “No, a thousand times no.” David suffered horrible reaping as a result of his sin. But the one sin was not an accurate definition of who he was. I’m sure it marked his reputation for the rest of his life. Even when God has forgiven a person, people do not always do the same. When we think of Peter, we remember a lot of good things about him. But one thing we always remember is that Peter was the disciple who denied the Lord.