- The Man that Loved Christ
This is a tragic, yet sobering account for us all to consider. Here we have a man who undeniably loved Christ. He left everything to follow Him, knowing that He alone possessed the words of eternal life, and understanding that He was in fact the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
Peter was crushed by the prospect that Christ would be killed at the hands of Israel’s leaders, and refused to accept such news saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” He was deeply grieved over the reality that one of the twelve would be the betrayer of Jesus, and out of an uncertainty of himself, He humbly asked, “Surely it is not I, Lord?”
He was so confident in His love and devotion to Christ that, when Jesus told him that he would all fall away from Him, he boldly asserted, “Even though all may fall away, yet I will not.” Jesus assured him that he would indeed forsake Him, and not only that, but that he would personally sink to the depths of denying Him three times. Satan would sift him like wheat in a desire to destroy his faith. Peter, ignorant of his own potential, proudly declared, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny you!”
41 verses later, we see Peter weeping bitterly as he remembers the remarks Jesus made realizing that they had just become a reality. One which he thought impossible for himself. One which he sought to prove impossible for himself by drawing a sword and striking the slave of the High Priest as they were arresting Jesus. In the end, however, Jesus, revealed to him that he had acted carelessly, unnecessarily, and contrarily to the will of God; and when he realized what was inevitably going to happen, he fled with the rest of the disciples, thus fulfilling what Christ had declared would occur.
Rater then coming to his senses and seeing that since the falling way occurred just as Christ had said it would, then so too would the denial occur, Peter, overconfident in himself, ignored the words of Christ and rushed headlong into a situation he was unprepared to face. For while he ought to have been watching and praying for it, he was found sleeping, because based on his own estimation of himself, he would undoubtedly die with Christ rather than deny him. Behold the man that loved Christ.
At this point we should call our attention to Proverbs 16:18, for this account of Peter presents us with the perfect playing out of this principle, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.” Paul’s warning to the Corinthians is heard throughout the entirety of this portion of Scripture, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.”
Today we will examine the downfall of Simon Peter, the factors which led to him denying his Lord three times, his response to such sin in his life, and Christ’s unfailing love for His people even when they fail to love Him as they ought to.
- The Downfall of Peter
Regarding the account of Peter’s deterioration, J.C. Ryle said:
“It is an experimental truth that ought never to be overlooked, that when a believer has once begun to backslide and leave his first faith, he seldom stops short at his first mistake. He seldom makes only one stumble. He seldom commits only one fault. A blindness seems to come over the eyes of his understanding. He appears to cast overboard his common sense and discretion. Like a stone rolling downhill, the further he goes on in sinning, the faster and more decided is his course. Like David, he may begin with idleness, and end with committing every possible crime. Like Peter, he may begin with cowardice, go on to foolish trifling with temptation, and then end with denying Christ.”
Mark has already told us in 14:54 that Peter, who undoubtedly thought he could stand, put himself in a vulnerable situation as he followed Christ “at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest; and he was sitting with the officers and warming himself at the fire.” He wanted to see the outcome of what they would do with Jesus.
The courtyard all the gospel narratives speak of is the one found in the estate of Annas and his son-in-law Caiaphas. They shared this priestly mansion, which would have been a large rectangular structure with a significant inner courtyard in the midst of it dividing, in a sense, the houses of those who dwelled there.
Since this was the living quarters of the High Priest, only those known by him could enter. In Marks account we see that Peter entered into the High Priest’s courtyard, but this was not because he personally knew him. John tells us in his gospel account that:
“15 Simon Peter was following Jesus, and so was another disciple. Now that disciple was known to the high priest, and entered with Jesus into the court of the high priest, 16 but Peter was standing at the door outside. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the doorkeeper, and brought Peter in.”
It has been traditionally understood that the other disciple was John, the one whom Jesus loved. There is no other mention of him during this event. All gospel accounts focus their attention on Peter, who was standing and warming himself by the fire among the slaves and officers to blend in. He did not want to be recognized.
Realize this, that before Peter was even questioned on whether or not he knew Christ, he was already seeking to distance himself from Him by looking like the world. Peter understood that all who desired to live godly in Christ Jesus would be persecuted. Jesus had told him, and the others, that because He was hated they too would be hated because of Him. Christ told them that they would experience great trouble in this world which is at war with Him.
Peter’s flesh knew the way to avoid the hostility of this world at war with God. It understood what was required to be loved by men, and not hated by them. It grasped how to escape suffering for the sake of Christ. Disassociation, and conformity.
You cannot be conformed to two different molds at the same time. Water can only take the shape of that which is containing it. In order for water to be conformed to another image, it needs to separate from the one it is currently associated with and allow the shape of the other to influence its appearance. You cannot be transforming into the image of Christ, while retaining the worlds appearances and approval. Conformity to the one demands for disassociation with the other. You cannot serve two masters. You will love the one and hate the other.
We would all do well to remember that friendship with the world is to be hostile to God, “therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” Conversely this means that to be a friend of God is to be an enemy of the world. Our relationship with the world is an evidence as to whether or not we genuinely have a relationship with God and are known by Him. 1 John 2:15 says:
“Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
In other words, if your life is marked by a love for that which is hostile toward God, and you experience no godly remorse drawing you away from it towards God, you are not His; for the Scripture says this, “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us.” As a good husband is rightfully jealous for the love and affection of his wife, and will not tolerate another man vying for the attention of the one with whom he is joined to, so too is Christ jealous for the love and adoration of His people. When we begin to love another more than Him, He will chasten us and convince us to see the error in our ways and draw us to repentance and confession. If one possesses a love for the world, but never experiences a chastening from God that draws them closer to Himself, the Scripture says that they “are illegitimate children and not sons.” Hebrews 12:6 says:
“For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines,
And He scourges every son whom He receives.”
We are commanded to not be conformed to this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. We are instructed to not be conformed to our former ways of life, but like the Holy One who called us, we are to be holy in all of our behavior, which means to be distinct from the non-believer and separate from the world’s form. We are ordered to no longer live as unbelievers do, who walk in the futility of their mind with darkened understandings, for they do not have the life of God, because of their hard and ignorant hearts. As Ephesians 4:22-24:
“Lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.”
Again, before Peter was even questioned on whether he knew Christ, he was already distancing himself from Him by attempting to blend in with these slaves and officers. Was Peter completely conscious about what he was doing? Did he realize that his seeking to blend in with these people meant that he was already disassociating himself with the Lord to some degree? No! Peter loved Christ, and he desired to be loyal to Him. He meant what he said, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny you!” He even took a sword to the ear of the High Priests slave to prove it. His spirit was willing, but his flesh was weak.
His pride had blinded him. He was so overly confident in himself that he did not realize that denial was already inwardly sown in his heart, it just was not yet realized. That is the pernicious nature of pride. People think they are standing, but in all actuality, they are falling, and they do not even realize it until they hit the bottom.
There is a principle established in the Scripture, if you walk in the flesh you will carry out the desires of the flesh. Since Peter was walking in pride:
- He did not honestly evaluate himself. Peter thought more highly of himself then he ought to have.
- He, therefore, refused to listen to Jesus, who assured him that Satan would sift him like wheat to cause his faith to fail all together.
- He, therefore, did not prepare for the temptation that was going to occur. Peter slept when he should have been watching and praying that he may might come out on the other end unscathed.
Though Peter did love Christ, and desired to be loyal to Him, he did not realize that he possessed a great love for himself, which was manifested by his desire to preserve himself from harm by disassociating with Christ. A love for self drew Peter to fear what man would do to him. It inevitably overpowered his love and devotion to Jesus and brought him to deny Him three times.
The first denial begins to unfold Mark 14:66, when he tells us that:
“66 As Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant-girls of the high priest came.”
According to John, this was the slave-girl who kept the door and let him in. Mark says that upon, “67seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him.” Luke indicates this was a very intense look as she tried to discern who he was in the firelight. She says to him, “You also were with Jesus the Nazarene.” John records her saying, “You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?”
We should take a moment to consider this, for when we do, we will conclude that Peter did not have anything to fear in this courtyard. We will see how griped with fear Peter was, and how much he sought to preserve himself from perceived harm. Listen again to what she said, “You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?” This slave-girl is not being hostile to Peter, she is making an observation and asking an innocent question. Remember that the only reason Peter is in there is because she let him in, and why did she let him in? John, who was also a disciple of Jesus, told her to. This implies that as John was freely roaming around in the courtyard, he was understood by those in it to be a follower of Christ. He was not hiding it from them, and they were not necessarily harming him for it. With John there, this girl merely asks Peter if he is also a follower of Christ. Caught of guard and griped with fear He said, “I am not.” Mark 14:68 says:
“68 But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you are talking about.”
Luke says that she says to those around, “This man was with Him too.”But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know Him.” It was not armed men who exposed his fear of man and love of life, it was the questioning of a young servant girl. Some manuscripts state that a cock crowed at this point, but it obviously did not awaken Peter to his downfall. Mark says that “he went out onto the porch.”
The second denial occurred a little later, “when he had gone out to the gateway.” This time Peter is not taken off guard. His denial is premeditated. Mark says that:
“69 The servant-girl saw him, and began once more to say to the bystanders, “This is one of them!”
When we consider the other gospel accounts we see that she is not alone. Matthew 26:71 says, “another servant-girl saw him and said to those who were there, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” Peter’s response reveals that a man also says to him, “You are one of them too!” Mark states, “70 But again he denied it.” Matthew says that “he denied it with an oath, ‘I do not know that man.” When a man asserts that he is a disciple of Christ, he says, “Man, I am not!”
Mark 14:70 describes the third denial:
“And after a little while the bystanders were again saying to Peter, “Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean too.”
Based on Luke, about an hour passes when other bystanders begin to point out his association with Jesus, because Peter’s dialect gave him away as a Galilean. Not only that, but John says that, “26 One of the slaves of the high priest, being a relative of the one whose ear Peter cut off, said, “Did I not see you in the garden with Him?” Mark says:
“71 But he began to curse and swear, “I do not know this man you are talking about!”
He is cursing, meaning he is declaring himself damned if he is not telling these people the truth; and he is swearing, which means he is swearing before God in front of these men that He does not know God’s only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Peter says to them, “I do not know what you are talking about.” “I do not know the man!” John MacArthur makes this observation:
“While Jesus stood trial before Annas and Caiaphas, Peter lingered outside in the courtyard where he insisted that he had never even met Jesus. The Lord stayed silent before His accusers, opening His mouth only to speak the truth even though He knew it would cost Him His life. What a contrast to Peter, who fearfully kept speaking lies to protect himself.”
It is critical to understand that Peter’s denial was not the denial of apostasy. Peter sought to disassociate himself from Christ by denying that he knew Him. Apostasy is not merely a denial of knowing Jesus. It is denying Jesus of all that He claimed to be, and did. It is a complete and total repudiation of the faith that has been once for all delivered to the saints.
Peter denied knowing the One who called Him and choose Him. The One who healed his mother-in-law of sickness. The One who saved Him from drowning at sea. The One who transfigured before him on the mountain. The One whom He knew to possess the words of eternal life. The One whom He confessed to be the Christ, the Son of the Living God. He denied Him three times, to protect himself.
- Simon’s Response to Sin
As Mark says:
“72 Immediately a rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had made the remark to him, “Before a rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.” And he began to weep.”
Luke 22:61 reveals that:
“61 The Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had told him, “Before a rooster crows today, you will deny Me three times.” 62 And he went out and wept bitterly.”
Christ’s stare penetrated deep into the heart of Peter. Like a prosecutor in court of law, Jesus’ stare reminded Peter of His Word’s, and convinced him of how guilty he was, and how far he had fallen. Peter stood convicted of his sin, and it grieved him.
There is a truth here we must never overlook, which is that one of the greatest evidences of salvation is not found in the absence of sin in a professing believer’s life, but the presence of it. Do you want to know if you really know God, and He truly knows you, and has sealed you for the day of redemption, and indwells you making your body His temple? How then do you respond to your sin when Christ brings you face to face with it and declares you guilty? Do you say that you have no sin? You are deceiving yourself, and the truth is not in you! Do you say that what you did was not sin though Christ says it was? You make Him a liar, and His word is not in you! How do you respond to sin in your life? Are you repulsed and grieved by it, or are you blind or indifferent to it after you indulge in it? Remember, God is a good Father. Provers 13:24 states, “He who withholds his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently.” The author of Hebrews, therefore, says:
“6 For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines,
And He scourges every son whom He receives.”7 It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.”
When Peter came face to face with his sin, he wept bitterly. His sorrow, however, was not like Judas’, which led him to take his own life. His was a godly sorrow that eventually led to repentance. When Christ convicts His own it is not so they merely feel guilty but do nothing about it; it is so they may know that they are guilty and draw closer to Him confessing their sins – which means to say the same thing God says about their sin – understanding He is faithful and just to forgive them their sins and cleanse them from all unrighteousness, because He became the propitiation of their sins. Confession cherishes the truth that where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.
We see all that has been said about sensitivity to sin, conviction and confession, and confidence in the saving mercy of God with King David, after his great sin, whereby he committed adultery with Bathsheba and murdered her husband Uriah. David prayed in Psalm 51:1-13:
“Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions.2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.4 Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are justified when You speak and blameless when You judge.5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.6 Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.7 Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.8 Make me to hear joy and gladness, let the bones which You have broken rejoice.9 Hide Your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities.10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.11 Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit.13 Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will be converted to You.”
Peter is weeping bitterly now, but we know that he will eventually come out on the other side with a better understanding of himself, and an even greater understanding of the love of Jesus Christ, which he is to use to strengthen his brothers.
- The Unfailing Love of Christ
It is a wonderful truth, that when we are faithless, He remains faithful because He cannot deny Himself. This truth is demonstrated for us in Peter. Though Peter turned his back on Christ, Christ did not leave him or forsake him. He loved him because He loved him. Three times Jesus will ask Peter to honestly acknowledge the extent of his love for Him. On the third time, Peter will say, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love you.” This love he speaks of is not a love that takes pleasure in Him alone, prizes Him above all else, and is unwilling to abandon Him or do without Him. Peter is confessing that his love is not as great as that, but it is one founded on a deep admiration, and esteem for Him. What does Jesus say? “Tend My sheep!” In other words, “Strengthen your brethren!”
Peter aims to strengthen all of us when he says from experience:
“6 Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7 casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. 8 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. 10 After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. 11 To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
When we look at this text we should be reminded of our own weaknesses. We should recall what Paul says to the Roman believers:
“For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.”
Pride comes before the fall, therefore, let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. As Ryle says:
“These things are written to show the church of Christ what human nature is, even in the best of men. They are intended to teach us that, even after conversion and renewal of the Holy Ghost, believers are compassed with infirmity and liable to fall. They are meant to impress upon us the immense importance of daily watchfulness, prayerfulness, and humility, so long as we are in the body. ‘Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.’”
For those of us who have fallen into sin and are broken over it, confess your sins for He is faithful and just to forgive you and to cleanse you. We should not draw back when we sin, we should draw near to Him, because we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins.
The greatest news in the world is that God’s love for us is not dependent upon our love for Him, but His eternal love for us, which He demonstrated in Christ, in that while were yet sinners, He died for us and rose again on our behalf!
 Mark 10:20
 John 6:68-69
 Matthew 16:16; Mark 8:29
 Matthew 16:21-22; Mark 8:31-32
 Matthew 26:22
 Mark 14:29
 Luke 22:31
 Mark 14:31
 Mark 14:72
 John 18:10
 Matthew 26:52-54
 Mark 14:27
 Mark 14:37-38
 1 Corinthians 10:12
 Expository Thoughts on Mark, J.C. Ryle; Page 258
 Mark 14:54
 Matthew 26:58
 John 18:15-16
 John 13:23
 2 Timothy 3:12
 John 15:18-19
 John 16:33
 James 4:4
 James 4:5
 Hebrews 12:8
 Romans 12:2
 1 Peter 1:13-16
 Ephesians 4:17-18
 Galatians 5:16
 John 18:17a
 Luke 22:56
 References 22:57
 Matthew 26:71a; Luke 22:58
 Luke 22:58a
 Matthew 26:72
 Luke 22:58b
 Matthew 26:73
 Luke 22:60
 Matthew 26:74
 The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Mark 6-19, John MacArthur; Page 333
 1 John 1:8
 1 john 1:10
 John 21:17
 Thayer’s Greek Lexicon; NT Number: 25
 Thayer’s Greek Lexicon; NT Number: 5368
 1 Peter 5:6-11
 Romans 12:3
 Expository Thoughts on Mark, J.C. Ryle; Page 262
 1 John 2:1-2