My Sunday morning Bible study is taking a fresh look at Peter and how his life often mirrors our own at various times in life. This week we are looking at the denials during of Peter on that dreadful Good Friday, and the restoration that took place after the resurrection.
BTW, have you ever considered why that day is called “Good Friday,” knowing what happened to Jesus, the crucifixion and all? Long ago I saw a B.C. cartoon that put is perfectly. BC and Grog were pondering the meaning of the term: “Why do you call Good Friday, “good” — a term oft misunderstood. You who were saved by the blood of his cross — you can call Good Friday good.”
There are important times in our lives when we either stand up for what we believe or cave in to the pressure around us. Peter saw himself as the kind of man who stands firm, but he overestimated his commitment on at least one occasion where he denied even knowing Jesus.
Though there is often a heavy price to pay for being uncompromising about our faith, the price of caving in is heavier. The good news is that even when we fail, God doesn’t give up on us. In fact, those who fail are exactly the kind of people Jesus came to redeem and restore.
Pledge: Matthew 26:17-35
The disciples were as human as anyone, and one night they got proud and jealous. When Peter declared that he would never deny Jesus, even if everyone else in the room did, he probably didn’t cultivate many warm, fuzzy feelings among the disciples. In fact, the text implies he was saying he was more faithful than the other disciples, which was likely quite offensive.
Peter could have simply said, “I will never forsake you,” but he didn’t. He compared himself with all the others and affirmed that he would be the strongest and most faithful of the disciples. As Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” And Peter would soon land hard.
In 1 Peter 5:5, Peter quotes an Old Testament passage about God opposing the proud but giving grace to the humble (Proverbs 3:34). He then urges his readers to humble themselves under God’s hand in order that they might be lifted up at the proper time (1 Peter 5:6).
- In what ways did Peter experience the realities of this passage? In what ways have you?
- How have you seen spiritual pride manifested in Christianity in general? In our church? In your life?
Denial: Luke 22:54-62
In a time of trouble and fear, Simon the Rock denies ever knowing Jesus, three times. Fear of people’s opinions or their swords tend to do that. It diminishes God’s power and messes with our perspective, and then makes us unwise.
Luke records an interesting detail of Peter’s three denials. When the rooster crowed, “the Lord turned and looked straight at Peter” (Luke 22:61). Remember the first time Jesus gazed at Peter was when they first met (John 1:42) when followers were gathering around this Messiah. Jesus saw Peter’s potential underneath his rough exterior and called him a rock. Now, on a cold night years later, as disciples are scattering and abandoning this Messiah, Jesus again gazes into Peter’s soul. And Peter leaves and weeps bitterly (Luke 22:62).
- If Jesus stood before you right now and gazed into your eyes, what do you think he would see?
- Knowing that your heart is laid completely bare before him, how would you feel about being in his presence? Why?
Restoration: Mark 16:7; 1 Corinthians 15:5; John 21:15-17
Peter’s denial of Jesus was dramatic and devastating. Perhaps more than any other disciple besides Judas, he failed. Not only did he abandon Jesus in a crisis moment, he vocally disowned him. His confidence in his complete faithfulness had proven unfounded.
In at least three instances, Scripture provides a glimpse of God’s mercy toward Peter after his failure.
First, there is a small but important mention of Peter in Mark 16:7. When three women arrive at the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body, an angel tells them Jesus has risen and then gives them instruction: “Go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’” Clearly, God had plans.
Next, Peter is apparently the first disciple to see Jesus after the resurrection, alone. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:5 that Jesus first met with Peter before meeting with the rest of the disciples, as though the two of them had an important matter to discuss apart from the group.
Finally, toward the end of John’s gospel, Jesus appears to the disciples on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Three times (John 21:15, 16, 17), perhaps once for each denial, he asks Peter if he loves him. Peter takes advantage of the opportunity to counter each of his denials with a confession of love and loyalty. He is not only forgiven but fully restored.
I wonder if Jesus is asking Peter if he loves him enough. I suppose it is one thing to love Jesus enough to believe in him, but it is a whole new level of commitment to love Jesus and do something about it. Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” and the response is affirmative, but if loving him is true, a command follows, “Then tend my lambs, shepherd my sheep and tend my sheep.”
- What’s the difference between forgiveness and restoration?
- Have any of your failures caused you to doubt God’s willingness to restore you? Why or why not?
- Under what conditions do you normally forgive someone? Is there any failure too great for you to forgive?
- Do you love God enough? I mean enough to risk getting out of your comfort zone and do something great for his kingdom?
- What might Jesus be asking you to do to demonstrate your love for him?