But let's come back to the biography of the big fisherman. His was probably the most dramatic change of all the rest.Yet there was another time that Jesus looked at Peter under very different circumstances. All the disciples had professed undying devotion to their Master, but impulsive Peter had spoken louder and longer than any of the others. He would go to his death rather than be disloyal to the One who had called him from his nets. Jesus, of course, knew better and warned the ardent disciple that his words would soon be tested and found wanting. "Verily I say unto thee, that this night before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice" (Matthew 26:34).
Within hours the little group of disciples were trying to stay awake while Jesus agonized in the Garden of Gethsemane. Suddenly, out of the darkness of the night, came shouts from a well-armed mob, and Peter, stirred from his slumber, leaped to his feet with sword in hand. In a rash display of bravado he swung wildly at the nearest man, whacking off an ear. Instantly, Peter was rebuked by the quiet voice of the Master, "Put up again thy sword into his place."
Then pandemonium broke out as the traitor Judas identified Jesus as the object of their search. In the resulting confusion Jesus was violently separated from His followers and dragged away for an impromptu, illegal confrontation with Pilate in the governor's judgement hall. As for the disciples, we have this simple, succinct biblical statement, "Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled" (Matthew 26:56). But then Matthew quickly adds these words, "But Peter followed him afar off unto the high priest's palace" (Verse 58).
The shameful interlude around the fire in the palace courtyard highlights the depth of Peter's instability, earlier recognized by Jesus when He added the name Cephas or Peter (rolling stone) to Simon's name. In three groveling denials Peter distanced himself from the One who was plainly visible through the open door. Those lips which had declared, "thou art the Son of God" now began to pour forth curses and invectives to avert the accusing finger of a little girl who recognized him, but his earthy denials were cut short in mid-sentence by the shrill sound of a crowing rooster. Then Peter's eyes were drawn through that open door to meet the steady, return gaze of Jesus—a sorrowful look of love and compassion that would burn in the broken heart of Peter for many hours.
As the full horror of what he had done dawned on Peter's mind he fled into the sheltering darkness. Mercifully we are not allowed to follow the pain-racked apostle as he sought out a solitary place to agonize through a seemingly endless night. But the remorse did not cease for Peter on that Paschal night, nor on the preparation day which followed.
In our own minds we can easily picture the tormented state of Peter's mind during that special high Sabbath while Jesus rested in the tomb. He struggled with the thought that he might have committed the unpardonable sin. The overwhelming guilt of his despicable deed was constantly before him.
But then it was Sunday morning and Peter forced himself to j oin the other disciples as they assembled to share their grief. There is shame on the part of all as they remember their cowardly conduct on Thursday night, but Peter is more devastated than any of the others. I can picture him drawing aside into a corner, still red-eyed from weeping. Suddenly the door bursts open and Mary Magdalene flies into the room, gasping out the electrifying news that she has seen the resur rected Jesus. There is a stir of excitement, but then a wave of unbelief. Excitedly Mary repeats the words of the angel that they should go to Galilee to meet the Master for themselves. But the Bible says that her words "seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed not" (Luke 24:11).
Is it hard to imagine Mary's frustration at such skepticism of her eyewitness report? But where was Peter? Surely he would believe that she was telling the truth. Seeing him in the corner she rushed to pour out her story anew. "Come," she said, "We must meet our Lord in Galilee." "No, Mary. Not me. Jesus will never want to speak to me again. I denied Him with cursing and swearing!" And then Mary's words tumble out with renewed excitement, "No, Peter, the angel said, 'Tell his disciples and Peter.' He called your name. He especially wanted you to be there."
Did ever sweeter words fall upon a human heart than those thrilling words of Mary? Into the darkened life of that grieving disciple the glory of heaven burst like a newly risen sun. And then Peter is running, running to tell everyone the glorious news. The narrative continues after saying "they believed not," with these words, "Then rose Peter and ran unto the sepulcher" (Verse 22). The joyful words rang in his heart—-Jesus still loved him! Jesus had forgiven him!
I need waste no further words with the story, because every one of us has passed through the same sharp-edged remorse that cut off Peter's j oy and hope. We have asked ourselves the same question that he must have screamed into the darkness—"Why did I do it? I loved Him and yet I denied Him!"And our broken hearts have been lifted and healed by the same blessed assurance that our sins have been forgiven. Jesus loves us still and responds instantly to our cry of repentance. Hallelujah! What a Saviour! How can we not love such a Redeemer? And from such an experience of restoration we may enter as Peter did into a life of constant victory and fruitful witnessing for the Master. All because He has chosen us in our weakness, through the riches of His grace, to confound the things that are mighty. Where sin abounded, let grace much more abound}. Thanks be to God for the unsearchable riches of that grace!
Library of Sermons
Can a Saved Man Choose to Be Lost?
Does God's Grace Blot Out the Law?
Hidden Eyes and Closed Ears
How Evolution Flunked the Science Test
Is It Easier to Be Saved or to Be Lost?
Man's Flicker or God's Flame
Satan in Chains
Satan's Confusing Counterfeits
Spirits From Other Worlds
Thieves in the Church
Why God Said Remember
Why the Old Covenant Failed
The High Cost of the Cross
Is It Possible to Live Without Sinning?
Blood Behind the Veil
Spirits of the Dead
The Brook Dried Up
Death in the Kitchen
The Search for the True Church
Is It a Sin to Be Tempted?
Is Sunday Really Sacred?
Rendezvous in Space
Christ's Human Nature
Point of No Return
The Rich Man and Lazarus
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