Summary: A grace-filled sermon about Peter. We all mess up, even though we shouldn’t, and don’t have to, but we do. There’s still hope for us anyway.
Luke 22:31-34; 54-62 – When a Believer Fails
Today, as we continue to look at The Life of Jesus, we are looking at a familiar story from Scripture. We are going to look at Peter, in particular, his failure. But what it really a failure of faith? What was it? And are we likely to go through it some time? Let’s read from Luke 22:31-34 and 22:54-62.
Now, I suppose most of us have heard the story of Peter’s failure. This man had been one of the most staunch followers of Jesus, right from the start. He had been a fisherman, a hard-nosed, stubborn, rough, coarse blue-collar guy who earned his living from braving the elements and hoping luck would bring him enough fish to feed his family and pay his bills.
I find that people either approach the story of Peter with sympathy or with judgement. People either feel bad for what happened and show compassion towards the guy, or they analyze the situation to death. They wrestle with questions of why he did it, or where he would have gone – to heaven or hell – if he had died then. And I also find that the ones who sympathize with Peter are the ones who best know how sinful they themselves are. The ones who judge and condemn and say, “he should have known better” are the ones who are least willing to admit their own flaws. They may admit that they are sinful but won’t name any sin specifically. After all, if they admit to any sin, then they would feel obligated to change, and they really don’t want to.
Today I want to sympathize with Peter. I want us to look at his failure and gain some encouragement through it. First, let’s look at the context. It was at the Last Supper. Jesus would lay His life down in a matter of hours, and each word that He said was not wasted. Every word carried deep meaning. But the disciples were missing the point. They were arguing about who would be the greatest. They wanted authority. They wanted power. They want to rule.
They had had these conversations before. Jesus rebuked James and John, the Sons of Thunder, for wanting to get ahead in life. Well, at least, they wanted to get ahead of everybody else. Judas, a character we’re looking at in the evenings, certainly had plans of advancement – of getting ahead, of getting what he wanted.
And Peter was no exception, either. Peter wanted to save his own hide. He wasn’t concerned with sacrifice or selflessness. He wanted to be in charge. He wanted to make the decisions in his own life.
But the greatest lessons he would ever learn would come in from being in charge but from letting Jesus make the decisions. Peter was about to learn to have a tender heart. Peter, which means Rock, was about to have his stony heart smashed. Peter’s greatest lesson would not be about greatness, but about grace. Peter was about to fail, and fail hard, but he was also about to experience forgiveness.
I think it’s significant that Jesus calls him Simon in v31. It was Jesus who first called this Simon fellow Peter, and so I guess Jesus can call him Simon again. You see, as I said, Peter means rock. Now, the name Simon may mean “good listener”, but it may also mean “reed”, as in, easily moved. Personally I don’t think the guy was a very good listener, but at least on occasion he was led astray.
I think Jesus calls him Simon because he was about to waver. He was about to be not so strong and courageous. He was about to fall. Whether or not Peter resented being called his previous name, I don’t know. But he didn’t like the idea that he was about to fall. He said, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” He argued with Jesus. He said that he was certainly not going to fall. Maybe in essence he called Jesus a liar, but maybe he was just saying that Jesus was wrong. Either way, Peter was about to tumble.
The evening progressed like this. Judas flees, Jesus and the 11 disciples end up in the Garden of Gethsemane, Judas brings the mob to arrest Jesus, and after a skirmish in which Peter lobs off the ear of the high priest’s servant, all the disciples flee. Mark runs off naked, and the others just run off.
Now, Peter and John resurface at the high priest’s courtyard. From there they can see Jesus’ interrogation as they stand around warming themselves at a charcoal fire. Three times, Peter is asked if he knows this Jesus guy that everybody’s all in an uproar about. Twice he responded with, “No, I don’t.” The 3rd time was more of an oath or a curse: “For God’s sake, I don’t know him!”