We are looking at several related passages of Scriptures here today. The first of these scriptures shows Jesus talking to His disciples during the last supper, shortly before He will be crucified. He has sent Judas out, knowing full well that Judas is going to betray Him, but also knowing that this must be done for God's perfect plan of redemption to be fulfilled. Jesus tells the disciples that now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in him. Jesus honored God when He left all the glories of heaven to come to earth as a man, knowing that death would be His ultimate end; by carrying out God's plan of crucifixion and resurrection in perfect obedience, Jesus glorified God. God also glorified Jesus, giving Him a name that is above all others. Someday, at the name of Jesus EVERY knee shall bow before Him and honor Him (see Rom. 14:11, and Is. 45:23)
Jesus Christ was willing to accept such a death to save all who will accept Him---that is indeed an honor to God the Father. God himself was willing to give up His only begotten Son to provide salvation for sinful mankind--- that is Love beyond all comprehension. How do YOU glorify the Father, and the Son?
After Jesus's death and resurrection, the disciples glorified Jesus by their faithfulness and obedience to the things that He had taught them. That's the purpose of Christian life: to glorify God and Jesus Christ in our own lives, and to show the love of God to a lost and dying world; thus, through our faith and obedience, others would come to know the precious salvation of Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Jesus tells the disciples lovingly that where He is going, they cannot come; they could only join the Master after their own deaths. Then He gives them the commandment to love ane another, saying this is how others will know that they are His disciples. Love is required of us today as well. Others see Jesus in us when we demonstrate His love to others. To love the unlovable is the distinguishing mark of Christianity.
His disciples, although they have walked with Jesus for about three years now, still don't understand that He was sent for a purpose, and that purpose was to die, and be resurrected, in atonement for the sins of the world. Although they believe Jesus is the Messiah, they still think He's going to establish an earthly kingdom.
Peter, as we've already seen, is brash and impetuous, often acting first and thinking later. He asks Jesus where was He going, and why couldn't they come with Him? When Jesus answers that they will follow him later, Peter promises, with his usual air of braggadocio, that he would follow Jesus even into death, laying down his own life for Jesus if need be. Peter's words show his devotion---he is truly devoted to Jesus, wanting to be with Him WHEREVER that may be. His words also show his impatience---he wants to follow Jesus NOW. His words also show his self reliance, or belief in his own ability.
Do we sometimes place our reliance in our own ability to follow Jesus? Do we, like Peter, think we are able to stand up for Jesus in our own strength? Was Peter able to do what he claimed? Are we?
Jesus knows that despite Peter's bravado, he is only human, and has the usual human failings and shortcomings. He knows that Peter is NOT going to lay down his life for Him; in fact, Peter is going to deny Him: not once, nor even twice, but three times that very night, and Jesus tells Peter this. Peter claims he'll lay down his life for Jesus, but Jesus knows that just the opposite is true--- that Jesus would lay down His life for Peter, and for all of us.
Can you imagine Peter's chagrin? After professing faithfulness even to death, Jesus sees right through him, and knows that Peter will deny even knowing Him. Has there ever been a time you've denied Jesus? Do you think Jesus knows when we are going to deny him, just as He knew Peter would?
When Jesus was arrested and taken before the high priest (Caiaphas), this bold and brash Peter remained outside while another one of the disciples went inside with Jesus. He was probably very nervous and ill-at ease; after all, he had cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest when they came to arrest Jesus in the garden. (see vs. 10-11)
The girl at the door recognized Peter, asking him if he was one of the disciples of Jesus. She wasn't seeking confirmation; she knew he was, because she had just opened the door to Peter, Jesus and the other disciple! Here was Peter's first denial. Peter was undoubtedly afraid of the consequences of admitting that he was "one of them"; after all, they had just arrested Jesus, they would surely arrest him as well. And he had impetuously cut off the ear of the high priest's servant!
The servants and officers who had arrested Jesus were all standing around a fire to warm themselves. Peter joined them there, perhaps to avert suspicion of himself. Here the second and third denials took place. Not only did he NOT lay down his life for Jesus, Peter mingled among those who had arrested Him, as if he were one of them! He stood with them, instead of with Jesus. At that point in time, Peter would rather be identified as one of the persecuters of Jesus, rather than as one of the followers of Jesus!
Christians are often jeered at, made fun of, and called derogatory names because of their faith. Has there ever been a time when people have pointed to you as being "one of them"? What was your reaction? Have YOU ever denied or de-emphasized YOUR faith in Jesus? Have YOU ever joined in with those jeering, rather than be identified as a Christian?
Peter's three denials stand out in stark contrast with Jesus's own repeated affirmations of "I am". How heartbreaking it was for Peter to realize that, contrary to all his boasting, contrary to all his devotion, contrary to all that he had been taught by the Master Himself, in that moment of time, he denied Jesus. The scriptures tell us Peter "wept bitterly". His heart was broken because he knew he had sinned against the Lord.
Some Christians say they would never, ever deny Jesus. However, no human being is infallible; we all all vulnerable. We never know our breaking point until it has just past. We need to continually seek God's strength and guidance in our lives; we need to constantly pray, and learn to avoid, if at all possible, those situations that may increase our vulnerability. Otherwise, we too may deny our Lord in a moment of weakness and fear. If it could happen with Peter, it could happen with us!
Jesus knew that carrying out God's plan would require betayal, humiliation, and death in the hands of His enemies. His committment never falters. When our commitment requires personal sacrifice, do we follow the example of our Lord, or are we more like Peter? Does our committment falter or disappear when it becomes too costly to us, when it requires personal sacrifice or maybe even death?
The only way to deal with our own sinfulness is the same way Peter dealt with his--- with a broken heart and tears of repentance. Peter experienced God's love, mercy and forgiveness when his boastfulness became humility before God; when he set aside his brash actions for heart-felt repentance. God's mercy is always greater than our sins.
Peter's failure became the means by which God humbled him to prepare him for greater service, the beginning of his spiritual growth and maturity. After he repented, he went on to become one of the most effective of all the disciples in proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ. Peter's denials should serve as a warning to all of us--- if his committment faltered, ours can, too. And Peter's restoration and subsequent effectiveness should be our assurance that God' grace and mercy are always there to restore us when we turn to Him in sincere repentance with a contrite and humble heart.
(Also see Matt. 26:69-74; Mark 14:66-72; and Luke 22:47-62)