Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Matthew 26 Peter’s Failure
Surely there are no two verses that are more tender and at the same time more terrifying than those which bring before us our Lord's interview with Peter in dark Gethsemane Luke 22: 31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”
How tenderly these words reveal to us something of the infinite love of our Saviour, but how terrifying they are! Did Satan want Peter'? Did he, in fact, ask for Peter'? Did he become active in Peter's life'? And does he want us, and is he at work in our lives? Do not confine these words to Simon Peter. They have their application to every Christian. When our Lord said, "Satan hath desired to have you . ", that word is plural; it refers to all the disciples, and it includes every Christian.
(1) THESE VERSES REVEAL SOMETHING ABOUT THE LORD.
They speak to us about the Lord's perfect knowledge of our whole future path. He knew all that was going to happen in Peter's life. He knew that Satan would attack Peter and that Peter would deny his Lord. He knew that Peter would be filled with remorse and terrible discouragement, that he would be restored, and that as the result of his failure he would be better qualified to strengthen his brethren. How solemn it is that the Lord knows beforehand about all our failures, as well as about our trials, sorrows and testings! But there is great comfort here look up Job 23: 10. But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.
They speak to us about the Lord's personal concern for each one of His children. Luke 22: 31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Here is something very wonderful. We have noted that the "you" in verse 31 is plural; now notice that the "you" in verse 32 is singular. Why is this? The reason is that Peter was in special danger, and the Lord was personally concerned for him. Thus, in Job 23: 10 the pronoun is "I" and not "we", and the same is true in David's expression of confidence recorded in Psalm 138: 7-8. Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me. 8 The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands. In the wonder of our Lord's general care for all His children, do not lose sight of His tender and loving concern for you, just for you.
They speak to us of the Lord's powerful intercession for us, which guarantees our security. Why did He say to Simon, "I have prayed for thee"? First, because He was actually going to pray for Peter; but second, because here we have a picture of what Jesus is doing now Hebrews 7: 24-25, Although Peter failed, the Lord kept him and brought him through, and all this was the result of His intercession—look up and compare Psalm 37: 23 The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way. 24 Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand. Philippians 1: 6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:
Perhaps you are being sorely tested. If you are His child He will certainly bring you through.
(2) THESE VERSES REVEAL SOMETHING ABOUT THE DEVIL.
they tell us that the devil’s great objective is to destroy the child of God
The devil seeks to destroy every child of God, but he will fail, because—1 John 3: 8; The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. But while he is allowed to work upon our lives the process is often very painful. Luke 22: 31 means literally, "Satan hath earnestly asked for you" All the time we are in the body we shall be assaulted by the Devil, but, thank God, we are secure and the Lord will bring us safely Home at the end of the journey.
They tell us that the spearhead of Satan's attack is aimed at our faith. Jesus said to Peter, "I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not." Why does the Devil attack our faith?—look up Hebrews 11: 6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
How amazing it is that the Devil, with all his ingenuity, has not changed his tactics since the time he attacked the faith of our first parents in the Garden of Eden—look up Genesis 3: 1 Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?
If our faith goes, everything goes—our joy, peace, love, power and usefulness--therefore the Devil's main frontal attack is to destroy the faith of the Christian. Keep on your guard then, Christian!
They tell us that all that the Devil does in our lives he does only with the Lord's permission, and for the fulfilling of the Lord's purpose. The Devil can go so far but no farther—Job 1:10-12 Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” 12 And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.
Here is a great mystery; why does the Lord allow Satan to operate in our lives? One answer to this question is, that he may "sift us as wheat". Why is wheat sifted? To separate the chaff from the good grain. Satan sifts to get the wheat, but in actual fact he only gets the chaff. He tosses us about in his sieve and causes tremendous friction in our lives, and all this lie does with God's loving permission and for the fulfilling of His gracious plan. Christian, do not be discouraged. The Lord is surely working out His sanctifying process in your life.
(3) THESE VERSES REVEAL SOMETHING ABOUT OURSELVES.
They show us that we, like Peter, are in need of a still far deeper work of grace. How poor Peter failed! But do we not fail just as Peter and the other disciples did? (Read through Luke 22 to get the answer to this question.) Is there not much chaff to be removed from our lives—pride, self-esteem, impetuosity, roughness, etc.? Jesus said that Peter needed to be converted—that is to say, "fully turned . . ." Do we?
They show us that we, like Peter, are so often blind to our own failings and inconsistencies. What was Peter's one great fault at this time? Surely it was his self-confidence, for Peter was so filled with self-confidence that he did not see his sin and his danger, and although the Lord warned him about it—see how he replied. So often we are blind to our own sins and failure, and the Lord has to allow the sifting process to go on in order to remove the chaff, and only then, when we are in the sieve, do we see and confess our true state.
PETER: HIS TRAGIC DOWNFALL We are all in danger of failing as Peter did. No-one is immune from the possibility of a spiritual downfall. If Peter is the best loved apostle, (as he is to many), surely the reason is that he was intensely human, as we are! He was impulsive and impetuous, as we are! He made mistakes and spoke unwisely, as we do! These very things about Peter, the unlearned, rather rough, clumsy fisherman, are the very things which attract us to him.
Peter did not expect to deny his Lord. In spite of the Saviour's warning (verses 31 and 34), to deny his Lord was the last thing that he thought he would do. We do not intend or expect to deny our Lord, do we? – and yet by His grace, we need never do so – but let us be careful and take heed to the words of 1 Corinthians 10:12. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.
Peter's fall was gradual. No-one falls suddenly; that is to say, backsliding is a process; it takes place in stages, a step at a time, gradually. What were the steps downward which led Peter to his final three-fold denial of the Lord?
1. The First Step: SELF-CONFIDENCE Can you see his over-confidence? And Peter said this in spite of our Lord's warning to him. It is always very dangerous to be too arrogant, and it is always fatal for a Christian to boast of what he is going to do. We see this same characteristic of impetuous self-confidence in Peter when he tried to walk on the water to go to the Lord (Matthew 14:28-31). Let us beware of self-reliance in every shape and form, for it always leads to failure.
2. The Second Step: PRAYERLESSNESS . Self-confidence and prayerlessness usually go together. What need is there to pray if we think ourselves to be strong enough already? Prayer is an admission of weakness and insufficiency, and probably the reason for 90% of spiritual breakdowns is prayerlessness. If you are following the Lord "afar off", ask yourself now if the main reason for the declension in your Christian life is not due to a neglect of prayer and Bible-reading.
3. The Third Step: CARNALITY John 18:10 Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest's servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant's name was Malchus. . To be carnal is to live and act in the energy of the flesh instead of in the power of the Spirit. It is always an indication that we are out of touch with the Lord when we say and do rash and unspiritual things. A carnal Christian so quickly brings dishonour upon the name of the Lord. Read 1 Corinthians 3:1-3, and notice that the chief mark of carnality is a state of protracted infancy! Peter acted like an undisciplined child when he struck off Malchus' ear. Christian, do you ever speak or act in this way?
4. The Fourth Step: PETER FOLLOWED AFAR OFF What a contrast! How sad to be missing just at the time when the Lord was needing his moral support! These are days in which the Lord needs His people to be living in close touch with Him. Are you following afar off? Luke 9:62 And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.
You used to go regularly to the prayer meeting, but now you are following afar off! You used to seek the lost, but now you are following afar off! Is that true of you?
5. The Fifth Step: WORLDLINESS . When our Lord was being tried, Peter, who had promised Him so much, was identified with the world which was rejecting Him. Are we like that? Psalm 1:1
1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
Worldliness is anything and everything that leaves the Lord Jesus out. Peter "sat down" with the world. Do you? Alas, many Christians do! Are you warming up by the world's fire? If so, it is a sure sign that you have lost something of the fire of the love of the Lord Jesus in your life 2 Timothy 1:6, which literally reads, "Stir up, fan the flame, rekindle the embers and keep burning…"
6. The Sixth Step: INCREASING INSENSITIVITY As things went from bad to worse, it seems that Peter became more and more insensitive to the Lord and to what He had said to him in warning him of the terrible denial which was to follow. This is what happens when we backslide; we literally slide more and more down the slippery slope from self-confidence to prayerlessness, to carnality, to following afar off, to worldliness – and then we become so insensitive that we can actually end up by denying the Lord. There is no prayer that we need to pray more frequently than the prayer that God will graciously prevent us from ever getting into a position or a place where we become insensitive to His voice and the knowledge of His will for our lives.
7. The Final Step: OPEN DENIAL Not once or twice, but three times Peter denied his Lord. Oh, how solemn, that a Christian can fall so far! Thank God we can conclude this study by pointing out the wonderful way in which Peter was led to repent of his backsliding and to return to the Lord. Luke 22:61 And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.
62 And Peter went out, and wept bitterly. What a "look" that was! How sad, how loving, how forgiving, how melting! It seemed to say to Peter – "Peter, come back!" Read John 21:15-17 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” .. v 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”
Psalm 139:23 Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: 24 And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. .
They show us that we, like Peter, can be transformed by the Lord's mighty power. See the wonderful prophecy in our Lord's words in verse 32! —"When thou art converted . . ." So Peter was going to be converted, fully turned . . ., and then, what a strength he would be to his brethren! But, most wonderful of all, even his failure, his fall and his relapse would qualify him for fuller service and greater usefulness.
The Lord brought Peter through because He prayed for him, and He will bring you through ... because He is praying for you.
John 17: I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.