Summary: Insights into the fall of Simon Peter through his threefold denial of Christ. How God used the crowing of a rooster, the look of Christ and the prayer of Christ to bring Peter back with tears of heartfelt repentance.
Three Strikes But Not Out.
In our Scripture readings we have seen this truth illustrated in the life of Peter, one of Jesus disciples. At the Last Supper, Jesus said to his disciples. “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: I will strike the shepherd and the flock will be scattered.” But Peter replied, “Lord I am ready to go with you to prison and even to death.” Jesus answered, “ I tell you Peter, this very night, before the rooster crows twice you will deny me three times.” But Peter insisted emphatically, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same( Matthew 26: 31-35). So let's see if Peter can keep that promise.
First of all we turn to the courtyard of the high priest, as Christ is standing trial, after his arrest. “While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the serving girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him.“You also were with the Nazarene,Jesus,”she said. But he denied it. “I don't know or understand what you're talking about” (Matt.26:69,70).
“Then he went out to the Gateway, where another girl saw him and said to the people there, this fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth. He denied it again, with an oath: I don't know the man! Strike 2
Later another went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean. Your accent gives you away”( Matt.26:71,72).” We take note of the fact that Peter, through his lies, has boxed himself into a corner and now in order to save his own skin, he brazenly tried to lie himself out. “Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” Then Peter reverted to the vulgar language and cursing he had practised in his old life before meeting Christ. And he swore to them, “I don't know this man you're talking about.”Strike 3.
Just as he was speaking, in that moment a rooster began to crow. “Then the Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times. And Peter broke down and wept bitterly”(Luke 22: 61,62). Peter is disqualified, we might even say that he is thrown out of the game. He who was to be the rock, was instead, mere pulverized sand. But that is not the end of Peter. Yes, he has Three Strikes against him but he is not finally out!
You will recognize this sermon title from the world of sport. When I refer to the game of baseball, nearly everyone knows what I am talking about. Not many are like the young lady who was invited to a baseball game by her boyfriend. Like many girls she wanted her hair to look just right and so she was fussing a bit and kept her boyfriend waiting. When they arrived at the game it was late in the fourth inning. He was very upset because they had missed almost half of the game. But when she asked what the score was he looked at the scoreboard and replied 0 to 0. She exclaimed, that's wonderful, we haven't missed a thing.
Above all I want this to be a message of hope and encouragement. Three strikes and you're out, can be bad news in the game of baseball, but in the game of life the player is definitely not out until he or she stops trying. In fact failure can sometimes be the back door to success. Can you name the big league baseball player who struck out a record of 1,330 times? A failure? No, because he also hit 714 home runs. His name was Babe Ruth. And he is remembered mostly for his home runs, not strikeouts.
I am always inspired by stories of people both in Bible times and in the present day who because of physical handicaps and severe losses, had three strikes against them. However, their records show that they were definitely not out because they refused to give up. Names like Terry Fox, Rick Hansen, Helen Keller, Mother Teresa come to mind. Also, we think of men and women in Bible times. Joseph, Moses, David, Job, Paul and many others. Three strikes were called against them but through faith in the Lord they won victories. Don't allow your life to be defeated by some failure. Rather, be concerned over the chances you miss when you don't even try. As a farmer friend of mine used to say, “If mistakes were haystacks, every man would have a cow.” I would have a whole herd.