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Pathway of Peter: Lesson 3 - Truth Denier

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The Pathway of Peter!  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  9:46
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How does a middle class fishin' man
End up in the middle of God's mission plan? 
He's a back water who walked on water.
One of the first to see Jesus in his authentic identity.
The Lord called this man the Rock. 
The gates of Heaven are his to unlock.
He's a truth denier turned Spirit-filled testifier.
After the resurrection God gave him a new direction.
God used this ordinary to do something extraordinary.
He didn't become the man he was in a day. 
So we need to look and see how he got this way. 
Peter had been with Jesus for roughly 3 years. He had seen Jesus do incredible miracles. He had walked on water with Jesus, he saw Jesus in his true identity - he knew Jesus was God.
But in today’s story, everything in Peter’s life falls apart. This is gonna be an emotionally taxing lesson today, but stay with me. It’s tragic, but beautiful. Even if this is not a good day for you, please stay with me. There’s good news, there is hope. But first we need to talk about the worst night of Peter’s life.

The Worst Night of Peter’s Life

If you want you can open your bibles and be thumbing through the headings as I summarize this. We’ll be looking mostly in Mark 14, but I’ll mention some other passages.
Most agree the events take place on the Thursday night to Friday morning of Passion week - the last week of Jesus’ life. So this is less than that 24 hours before Jesus dies on the cross. Up to this point, things are going great. Peter is expecting Jesus to layout his plan for how he will become king. Peter is thinking they will be part of some kind of coup. But while Peter may know/believe that Jesus is the son of God and God’s messiah. He’s still very confused about what the messiah will do. He probably expects that Peter is on the edge of coming into power, himself, as Jesus’ chief of staff.
The things Jesus will do/say this Thursday night greatly upset Peter’s understanding of who Jesus is. Everything is turned upside down.

Jesus washed my feet

Jesus is gathered together with his disciples in the upper room in a house in Jerusalem to share the passover meal together. More than just that ritual meal takes place.
John 13 tells the story of Jesus getting on his hands/knees before his disciples and washing THEIR feet. If you’ve heard this story, you remember that Peter gets really upset. He insists that Jesus is too noble/important to wash feet. You see in their day foot washing was reserved for the lowest class citizens. Peter doesn’t think Jesus should do that. Peter and Jesus have a fantastic dialogue where Jesus teaches Peter and us a lesson about what service looks like in God’s kingdom.
Also in this evening together, they share a meal together that becomes the basis for the Lord’s Supper we celebrate every week. As they are dining together Jesus let’s them know about some of the highlights of the next 12 or so hours.
Mark 14:18–19 NIV
While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.” They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, “Surely you don’t mean me?”

Jesus said, “One of you will betray me...”

Jesus confronts the disciples with this accusation one of his disciples will betray Jesus. None of them believe to be true or possible. This is one of the first bands of brothers. These men have left everything to follow Jesus. They all have made sacrifices to be with him. They have seen things never before seen by man. They intimately walked with God every day for 3 years. The thought of one of their beloved peers working against Jesus, their leader, and each of the other disciples is sickening to consider.
It’s no surprise each of them is on the defensive and denies that they will deny Jesus. Can you feel the uneasiness begin to set in? The celebration they are supposed to be having leaves them with a sour taste.
check out what comes later in their meal:
Mark 14:27–31 NIV
“You will all fall away,” Jesus told them, “for it is written: “ ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” Peter declared, “Even if all fall away, I will not.” “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “today—yes, tonight—before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.” But Peter insisted emphatically, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the others said the same.

Peter’s Proud Promise

Jesus tells them that they all will fail to stay with Jesus in his time of need. We don’t have a good sense of Jesus’ tone here. I’ve wondered what his body language communicated here. Is he trying to comfort the disciples, warn them, scare them? Probably a combination. He definitely wants them to remember this moment so later they can put the pieces together.
Jesus says that they all will fall away. Peter in his bold-pride tells Jesus he is wrong that EVEN IF everyone else falls away, he will NOT.
Here Jesus lets Peter know, well actually you are about to have a really bad night. Jesus tells him, “Today, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.”
This is a classic “wanna bet?” moment. Peter doesn’t back down. He KEEPS insisting. “If I have to die with you, I will never deny you.” the text says the other disciples all rallied behind Peter and said the same thing.
I don’t know why Peter said this. I don’t think it’s pure pride where he just assumes he is strong enough to weather any storm. Peter knows he’s failed in the past. I think this conversation generates such a strong response in Peter BECAUSE he realizes that Jesus is likely right. Peter is pained by this. He wants to be unyielding in his faithfulness to Jesus. That’s what he wants!
This conversation reminds me of the most famous conversation between two other characters: Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker. Vader confronts Luke with a painful truth that Luke already suspects is true. Luke’s responds in the most dramatic: “NOOOO” in movie history.
Likewise Peter is denying the truth from Jesus and instead insisting that he’ll stay faithful to Jesus probably in an effort to will himself to make that become true. Jesus is telling Peter that his worst fear is about to become a reality.
This has been an emotionally exhausting night for Peter. It’s still far from over.

Praying in the Garden

Next in the story, Jesus leads his disciples outside of the city to the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus takes his closest three companions, Peter, James, and John further away from the disciples. He tasks those three to stay awake and wait for Jesus.
Jesus goes further and prays alone. Jesus knows what the next several hours will hold. Later Jesus comes back, finds the 3 sleeping. He scolds them, returns to prayer. He does this three times. They keep falling asleep. Finally Jesus tells them, well it’s too late here comes my betrayer. By now Peter has been all-over the place emotionally, and He’s not that well-rested. He might have had some naptime in there, but not enough for a night’s sleep.

Jesus was betrayed and arrested

In Mark 14:43 it says that after this Judas suddenly arrived with the Jewish authorities and a well armed mob. The tensions rise, Judas betrays Jesus and hands him over to the Jews. Can you imagine what is going on in Peter’s mind right now? First, he is unimaginably angry at Judas. Second, his king was just arrested by his enemies in the secrecy of night. This is not going to plan.
Peter tried to be bold/valiant he pulls out a sword and actually strike a man, cutting off his ear. Woah! This fishin’ man’s ready for battle! Jesus once again, rebuke’s Peter, heals the guys ear, and lets himself be arrested.
There are several verse we’ll look at today that are quite sad here’s one of them that happens right after Jesus gets arrested.
Mark 14:50 NIV
Then everyone deserted him and fled.
The Jews lead Jesus off to be the Jewish authorities to be questioned and the disciples scatter.
We don’t know where everyone went. John 18 tells us that John the disciple was an acquaintance of the high priest and so he uses his access to get as close to Jesus as possible. Peter follows John. John goes all the way into crowd gathered at the center of Jesus’ interrogation. Peter meanwhile, lingers at the edge of the crowd. And it’s here that Peter’s night plunges to its lowest.
Mark 14:66–71 NIV
While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him. “You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus,” she said. But he denied it. “I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about,” he said, and went out into the entryway. When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, “This fellow is one of them.” Again he denied it. After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, “Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” He began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about.”

Truth Denier

In this story three different times Peter denies being associated with Jesus. He’s a truth denier. Three times he had an opportunity to stand with Jesus, to be persecuted with Jesus. Where is the Peter who, when Jesus washed his feet said “not just my feet Lord, but wash my whole body?” Why isn’t he boldly rushing up the authorities and saying if you are arresting my Lord, you’ll have to arrest me, too? This same Peter who so desperately insisted that he would not betray Jesus has done just that.
Peter starts off telling one lie that escalates into by the third him he denies Jesus he is even offering a curse to prove his innocence. This cursing business is serious. For one, all throughout the new testament swearing oaths, or placing curses are taught against. Second, at best Peter is cursing himself saying “may such-and-such happen to be if I am speaking falsely”. Another perspective is that Peter says a curse against Christ which would include mocking the name of Jesus and calling bad things upon him. Cursing Jesus was such a severe thing that later when Christians were persecuted and Christianity was illegal a captured Christian would have the option of being killed or cursing Jesus. Cursing Jesus was a semi- legal way of proving no association with Jesus. It was a strong enough, aggressive statement that proved your innocence from getting caught up in this Christianity.
while all this is going on, do you know what Jesus is doing? He is silently standing before the Jewish leaders. When they ask him if he is the Messiah, Jesus calmly, faithfully respond “I am.” Jesus boldly confesses who he is, signing his own death warrant so that he can die to save humanity. Meanwhile, Peter, his faithful disciple is boldly lying in order to save his own skin. Peter blows it. He lies. He denies his savior. Peter is a truth denier.
Now, hear the tragic end of this episode.
Luke 22:60–62 NIV
Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.

The Rock hits Rock-bottom

Simon Peter, the man the Lord called the Rock hits rock bottom. He’s a truth denier. There’s so much pain in this moment. The rock is crumbling to sand in this moment. Naturally we feel for Jesus. He is the truly innocent one who is taking mocking, abuse, torture, and execution for the sake of the world. But if you’ve ever hit rock-bottom before I hope we can empathize with Peter in this moment.
Peter is feeling his world being ripped to shreds. He’s sacrificed his family business to follow Jesus. He’s witnessed and even participated in awe-inspiring miracles. He is on a first name basis with the God-man. He has sworn his faithfulness to Jesus no matter the cost or whatever would come. In this moment in Peter’s life it seems as if none of that matters. Jesus is arrested and in a few hours will be handed over to the Romans to be executed. How will Jesus become king now? Not only that, but Peter fear now that he’s messed up and failed Jesus for what could be the last time. He betrayed everything he believes about Jesus to save himself. Peter denied the truth and is broken.
I hope we can empathize with Peter in this moment. This story is one where I feel we can all-too-easily relate to Simon Peter. After all, aren’t we truth deniers, too?

Aren’t We Truth Deniers, too?

We may not be witnessing the arrest/betrayal/torture/crucifixion of Jesus, but everyday we deny the truth of Jesus’ lordship in our lives. It may not be standing before a legal hearing, or going on record to renounce our faith. We may not even go so far as to curse Jesus, but I believe we, too, are truth deniers.
Listen to hear what is true in your life. We lie to get ahead, we take what isn’t ours, we lust after the man/woman isn’t our spouse, we get jealous for what we do not have, we take the Lord’s name in vain for humor, students: we drink, vape/smoke, sleep around because everyone else is doing it even though it’s destructive for you, if not illegal. Honestly, adults, we do those things, too, don’t we?
That’s all stuff we do that we shouldn’t. James 4:17 says that it is a sin to know good and not do it. This is more of what I feel is the sin we share with Peter. So what about the stuff we don’t do that we should. Like these: standing up for those who are bullied, keeping our relationship/marriage commitments, calling out racism/ignorant worldviews when you see them, loving your Christian brothers/sisters enough to gently call them out for the sin they may be blind to.
You see, Jesus willingly went through all he did that night of betrayal so that you and I can have forgiveness, so that you and I can become new creations. Jesus loves us so, so much. So that we can be free from the sin that we so frequently run back to. If you’re a Christian, you know longer have to be a slave to sin. That is truth that we are guilty of denying. Jesus loves us enough to offer us healing and a new way of life, we keep pretending that we don’t know him.
I’m thankful to God that we have mercy, forgiveness, and grace. We keep denying Jesus as if it’s no big deal. Too often, I fear we have the attitude that our continued sin doesn’t come at a cost. While it’s incredible true that grace is given to us freely, that does NOT mean that it is without cost. Peter’s denial, our denial may not cost us anything, but it cost Jesus his life. God’s love and grace didn’t even spare his own son for us. Even though Jesus paid the price that was ours to pay, do we still feel the weight of that cost? That’s the crazy, incredible, obsessed love that God has for us.
So we, like Peter, are truth deniers. BUT, there is hope.

Hope for Peter

I am SO thankful that this is not the end of the story. This might be the darkest night in Peter’s life, but it is not the final chapter.
turn over in your bibles to John 21. This story tells of the disciples seeing Jesus once again after the resurrection. Peter has since gotten some sleep, the Disciples are coming to terms with the fact that Jesus was killed, but didn’t stay dead! They’re processing what that means. They were out at their thinking spot, the lake doing some fishin’ (big surprise right?). Jesus starts talking to them from the shore. Once Peter realizes who it is, he takes off his robe dives in the water and swims 100 yards to shore to be with Jesus. Jesus is cooking them a nice fish breakfast and the disciples have a nice meal together. Then Jesus has this conversation with Peter.
John 21:15–19 NIV
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

Peter is Restored!

This gets right to the heart of the matter. Remember in the garden when Jesus asked Peter, James, and John to stay awake and wait for Jesus and they fell asleep 3 times? Remember that time Peter was in the courtyard denied being associated with Jesus 3 times? Here Jesus wipes the slate clean and presses the reset button on their relationship. Notice here in this section, Jesus calls Peter Simon, son of Jonah. This is serious, that is Peter’s legal name. This is Peter going on-record to confess his faith in Jesus. First Jesus asks Peter if he loves him more than “these” Jesus could be talking about his fishing career or he could be talking about the disciples. Regardless, he’s checking to make sure following Jesus is Peter’s first priority.
Three times Jesus asks Peter is he loves him, 3 times Peter confesses that he does, and 3 times Jesus tells Peter to take care of his flock. This conversation was for Peter. He needed to be reminded who he was. He needed to know that Jesus forgave him and still trusted him with authority. What a beautiful conversation. This is the start of how after the resurrection God gave this man a new direction. Peter is restored! There was hope for Peter after all.

If there is hope for Peter, there is hope for us!

[quote from Peter 1 Peter 1:13-16]
Peter’s life is raw. He is such a real character. He is a man of incredible faith, but also a man with doubt. A man who is trustworthy and a leader, but a man who also has faults and moments of failure. Today we’ve talked about Peter at his worst. It was sad. We’ve also spent some time talking about how we, too, are like Peter. How we deny Jesus all the time. If you’re like me, you’ve been in dark places where you feel paralyzed by your guilt. There might even be times you hate yourself for continuing to live as a truth denier. The good news for every one of us is this. If there is hope for Peter, there is hope for us!
Romans 5:8 CSB
But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

There is hope for us!

God is still faithful to us. God loves us, he forgives us. Today, you can start fresh. If you have not made the decision to put on Christ in baptism, you can decide to do that today. That is a chance to become a new creation and live free from sin. If you’re already a Christian today can be another turning point in your life. There are times when each of us wander off the path. This could be the day when you decide to put yourself back on the course you need to be on. There is hope for us!
I want to close by looking at a passage Peter himself wrote years after the events we talked about today. As a leader in the church Peter used his own experiences to call/lead Christians back to staying focused on Jesus!
1 Peter 1:13–16 CSB
Therefore, with your minds ready for action, be sober-minded and set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires of your former ignorance. But as the one who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy.
If there is hope for Peter, there is hope for us!
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