Tag Archives: faith

Gathered to God

Let the assembly of the peoples be gathered about you; 
over it return on high.
(Psalm 7:6-7 ESV)

All people are naturally attracted to the presence of God because of His image in them. Yet, surrounded by those who hate God, driven by a corrupted body that rebels against God and tempted by the Deceiver, coming into His presence is impossible. Sin drives away people from God. His Spirit calls, motivates and empowers those who are His to obey and they flee the attacks of the world to find refuge in Him. Only in Christ will any enter His presence, for Christ has carried the burden of their sin and reconciled them to God. Their foes come against them and God arises and lifts up Himself and awakens in triumph against His enemies.

The assembly of the peoples is the congregation of God. Throughout history God has wanted His people to gather around Him. In the Garden of Eden, a place where He walked with Adam and Eve, His intent was for them to reproduce and fill the world with people, with whom He would walk. There were no wicked, rebellious, sinful people in this assembly.“Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish” (Psalm 1:5-6 ESV). God will not allow evil in His presence. Those who are His will be gathered about Him, which means to turn, to go around, to surround and encircle, to change their direction. When God calls those in rebellion, His call is to repentance and faith. Before any can repent they must recognize the truth of sin, which is a walking away from God, then realize the consequences of sin, which is separation from Him, the eternal source of life. Repentance is changing direction because of the consequences of sin. Once there is repentance, which is turning away from sin, there is faith, which is turning toward God. But such faith is nothing until there is obedience to the will of God, which is a resolute walking toward Him. True faith involves the whole person, the mind, the emotions and the will, and must have the direction of the Holy Spirit. No one returns to God without His Spirit drawing them to Himself.

In the Hebrew Scripture, when God brought His people out of Egypt, He gathered them around Him by tribe and family. Within the center of the encampment was the tent of meeting. “The people of Israel shall camp each by his own standard, with the banners of their fathers’ houses. They shall camp facing the tent of meeting on every side” (Numbers 2:2 ESV). God’s people gathered around God, their refuge, who lead them out of captivity and the enslavement of the Egyptians.

In the Gospels we read people naturally followed Jesus wherever He was, gathering around Him.

And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, those having seizures, and paralytics, and he healed them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan. (Matthew 4:23-25 ESV)

People followed Jesus because He performed miracles, healed the sick and, on occasion, fed them. They followed Him because of His teaching, healing and feeding them. They followed Him because He is God in the flesh and they are just naturally drawn to Him. But many stopped following Him when He challenged them to true repentance. Jesus made following Him hard.

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. (John 6:63-66 ESV)

God reigns over His people, the citizens of the kingdom of heaven. Those who will not, by faith, submit to His authority, will not enter His kingdom. Over His kingdom and His people, He will return on high, which means to resume His eternal, rightful place of authority. People who rebel against Him cannot intimately know Him as the God of the universe. He has no place in the thinking of their hearts. Those who are drawn into His presence, who are chosen by Him, struggle to make Him the center in their physical lives. But, at the end of time, when God finally judges sin, and the Deceiver, and the world of people in rebellion against Him, He will fling away from His presence all evil. Then, even those who rebel will recognize His true, eternal place over all. 

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Appointed Judgment

Awake for me; 
you have appointed a judgment.
(Psalm 7:6 ESV)

In the beginning, after Adam and Eve violated God’s one command, they hid themselves from Him. They who were created for intimacy with God could not face Him because of their sin. God pronounced judgment on the Deceiver and those deceived. 

God walked in His “garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden” (Genesis 3:8 ESV). Adam and Eve did not want to face God, fearing Him and the judgment they knew awaited. Perhaps they imagined God did not know what they had done. God knows everything. This does not mean He predetermines everything. God is able to know what might have happened as well as what actually did happen. God judged the participants of the rebellion, giving the harshest judgment to the serpent, the Deceiver who inhabited a snake.

The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:14-15 ESV)

Knowing the future, God appoints a time of judgment, telling of actions and circumstances that would happen. From the body of the woman would come one of her distant sons, one of her offspring, who would crush the head of the serpent. Though the serpent would strike out and bruise His heal, he, the Deceiver, would ultimately be defeated. The prophecy is not explicit. Only after its fulfillment is it known. Jesus died on a cross, He was raised, and in His resurrection is the defeat of the enemies of God, of sin and the Deceiver and those who continue to rebel and disobey Him.

To awake means to be roused, to stir up, be excited and triumphant. Awake is the third word of the risen trilogy. 

Arise: Arise, O LORD! Save me, O my God! For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked. (Psalm 3:7)

Lift up: There are many who say, “Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD!” (Psalm 4:6)

Awake: Awake for me; you have appointed a judgment. (Psalm 7:6 ESV)

Jesus asks God to do that which God has already determined. God fixes Himself immovably against the assaults of His enemies. He bears a shield of protection against His enemies. He is triumphant against His enemies. God appointed a judgment, which means He has commanded and charged, given orders which cannot be circumvented or ignored. He will do that which He has determined to do. Judgment is the act of deciding a court case and includes bringing charges, presenting evidence, rendering a decision based upon the law, justly sentencing and finally, the execution of the sentence. God sits in the seat of a divine Judge and will uphold His laws and ordinances and decrees allowing none to circumvent His decisions and will.

God spoke to Abraham a number of times throughout his life. He promised him, and by extension, promised us, to make him a great nation and bless all people through him. “Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing’” (Genesis 12:1-2 ESV). God gave a promise to Abraham and to those who are His. “I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3 ESV). This promise extends to the nation of Israel with a condition. Their continual loving obedience toward God will guarantee His love and protection. He guarantees their protection by sending the Angel of the LORD, the pre-incarnate Christ.

“Behold, I send an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared. Pay careful attention to him and obey his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression, for my name is in him. But if you carefully obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.” (Exodus 23:20-22 ESV)

In His discourse on the end times, giving a parable on the final judgment, the parable of the sheep and the goats, Jesus explains what happens to those who obey and those who rebel. To those who obey He will say “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34 ESV). To those who rebel, even those who think they are obeying but are not, He will say “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:421 ESV). God will judge all according to their belief or lack of belief in Him, the evidence of their intentions and the consequent actions of their wills.  Judgment is inevitable. 

Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you. But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you. (Psalm 5:10-11 ESV)

God’s Promises

Arise, O LORD, in your anger; 
lift yourself up against the fury of my enemies;
(Psalm 7:6 ESV)

God alone is able to fulfill His promises. Those who offer promises, who swear they will do something, who claim ability to satisfy, may accomplish what they have promised in some circumstances, but not every circumstance. No fallen person can say they will do something, or never do something, and know with 100% certainty they will follow through. No one can foresee the future and every possible circumstance that may arise. No one has total control over what will happen. Only God is omniscient and omnipotent, having the foreknowledge of what will be because He exists outside of space-time history. He alone sees the beginning of history from the end. Only God has the power and compassion and will to do that which He promises. 

In the Psalms, Jesus asks God to deliver Him from His enemies. “Turn, O LORD, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love” (Psalm 6:4 ESV). Then Jesus declares God hears and accepts His prayer. “Depart from me, all you workers of evil, for the LORD has heard the sound of my weeping. The LORD has heard my plea; the LORD accepts my prayer” (Psalm 6:8-9 ESV). Jesus is so confident in the promise of God to judge righteously between those who falsely accuse Him and His own righteousness that He declares His “enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled; they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment” (Psalm 6:10 ESV).

Trust is an emotional, active response to a promise, and is integral to true faith. Without trust there is no faith and “without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6 ESV). Jesus is so confident in God’s response to His suffering for righteousness’s sake that He prays God respond in His wrath. Arise means to come upon the scene and stand up in power, to fix oneself in an immovable position and to endure against all assaults. God not only arises but lifts Himself up. To lift yourself up means bear up, take upon Himself, carry, support, sustain and endure, as well as to exalt oneself. God takes a stand against sin, placing Himself as a shield between those who are His and His enemies. 

God’s anger is the snorting kind and is the same word and concept used in the previous Psalm. Anger also means nose or face and suggests heavy breathing. “O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath” (Psalm 6:1 ESV). The image is of a person who witnesses something disgusting and snorts in derision and anger. God’s anger is against sin and the Deceiver, His enemies. Those who continue to disobey His command to repent and turn back to Him are also His enemies. Those who continue in their disobedience face the wrath of God.

When Moses brought the Israelite people out of Egypt they were led by God. 

“And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people” (Exodus 12:21-22 ESV).

After years of Egyptian enslavement, God promised to bring them out of Egypt and into their own land. To do this, God sent Moses to Pharaoh to command the Egyptian king to let the people of God leave. Pharaoh refused, believing himself equal to or greater than any god. After God persuaded Pharaoh to let His people go, Pharaoh changed his mind and pursued them. As Pharaoh’s army approached God, moved from before the people to between them and the Egyptians, as a shield. 

Then the angel of God who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them, coming between the host of Egypt and the host of Israel. And there was the cloud and the darkness. And it lit up the night without one coming near the other all night. (Exodus 14:19-20 ESV)

God raised Himself up in judgment against a king who rebelled against Him, refusing to obey His direct command. All of Pharaoh’s army perished, feeling the wrath of God. “The waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen; of all the host of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea, not one of them remained” (Exodus 14:28 ESV). God raised Himself up in judgment.

Forty years later, Joshua led the people into the Promised Land. As he was standing before Jericho, he came face-to-face with the angel of the LORD. He saw the pre-incarnate Christ, who came as the Commander of the army of the LORD. 

When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” 

And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the LORD. Now I have come.”

And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him,  “What does my lord say to his servant?” 

And the commander of the LORD’s army said to Joshua, “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.(Joshua 5:13-15 ESV).

God the Son directed Joshua against Jericho and the enemies of God living in the land. 

God promises to rebuke and punish those who are His enemies. “Arise, O LORD! Save me, O my God! For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked” (Psalm 3:7 ESV).

Why? If Jesus died for the sins of the people created in His image, why do any continue to face His wrath? Jesus tells us. His enemies show their response to the grace of God in utter hatred for Him. God’s enemies fight against Him with fury, which is overflowing wrath and arrogance, outbursts of uncontrolled rage. Those who suffer for righteousness’ sake feel the brunt of the excessive rage of the world against God because of His righteousness (Matthew 5:10-12). Jesus endured torture, choosing to die from the brutal, cruel treatment of the Jews and the Romans because He was righteous before God. Those who continue in their disobedience want to destroy God so He no longer has control and authority of all creation. This will never happen.

Trust

O LORD my God, in you do I take refuge; 
save me from all my pursuers and deliver me, 
(Psalm 7:1 ESV)

Trust is integral to faith. Without trust there is no faith. Faith is taking God at His word. God works and those created in His image see the evidence of His working, intellectually believing and knowing that evidence points to Him and only Him. He makes promises to those who are His, based upon His moral being. God is implicitly trustworthy in bringing those promises to fruition and reality. Those who intimately know God know that He will do what He says He will do. Finally, we obey His commands, knowing intellectually He will act and emotionally He will fulfill His promises. Faith is believing the evidence, trusting the Object and obeying His commands. Remove one of these three elements and faith is no longer faith. Trusting God assumes belief and obedience.

David sang a song to the LORD, reveling in Him and his deliverance from all his enemies. Probably written toward the end of 2 Samuel, this Psalm may have been composed early in the rule of king David, after the throne was taken from Saul in death and given to him. God rejected Saul because of his sin and selected another to take his place. “The LORD said to Samuel, ‘How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go. I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons’”  (1 Samuel 16:1 ESV). God chose David, who was a man after His own heart. David ascended the throne according to the promises of God who, through Samuel, anointed him king.“The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my savior; you save me from violence” (2 Samuel 22:2-3 ESV). Two words are used for refugein this song. In whom I take refuge is the same word used in Psalm 7:1. 

The second word for refuge means an actual place where one can escape. In God’s presence is refuge, a secure place where no enemy may assault, breech or enter. In God’s presence is complete security. This is the third time the Psalmist has used the word refuge“Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (Psalm 2:12 ESV). “But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you” (Psalm 5:11 ESV). Refuge means to seek and flee to a place of protection, to confide and hope in the Only One able to fulfill what is promised. It is not the place of refuge we seek, but the act of knowing the One who offers and provides refuge.

Jesus delivered His last discourse, His final teaching for His disciples, in an upper room, after eating the last and first Passover. He knows what is going to happen within a few hours. By sundown the next day He will have been tortured to death. Jesus knows His disciples face desperate sorrow and persecution after He goes away.

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going. (John 14:1-4 ESV)

God has a place for all with Him. Our hope is not in anything the world has to offer and everything God promises. Where we face physical persecution in the world we live in eternal peace in God’s presence.

The Psalmist asks God to save him from all the pursuers, those who chasing and dogging his steps, to harass and persecute. him Those who are righteous are chased by those who hate them. The image is of an army following a retreating enemy to overwhelm and destroy them. Pharaoh chased after the Jews during their exodus, not wanting them to get away. God parted the sea so His people could gain their freedom from Egypt. “And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. The Egyptians pursued and went in after them into the midst of the sea, all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen” (Exodus 14:22-23 ESV). Though Pharaoh and his army chased Israel, they were destroyed because God protected His people. After David killed Goliath the army of Saul hunted down the Philistine army. “And the men of Israel and Judah rose with a shout and pursued the Philistines as far as Gath and the gates of Ekron, so that the wounded Philistines fell on the way from Shaaraim as far as Gath and Ekron” (1 Samuel 17:52 ESV). 

God alone promises peace for those He calls into His kingdom. He is trustworthy to fulfill the promises made to those who are His. 

Trust

Meditations on the Psalms

Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the LORD.(Psalm 4:5 ESV)

Sacrifices and offerings mean nothing when there is self-focus, not on the Object of the gift. A self-focus shows the thinking of the heart is not on God but on an idol. What can this idol do for me? How can I influence or control this idol to act in my favor? Self-absorbed offerings to God dishonor Him. This is why slaughtering a righteous sacrifice is important and why that offering must first be the person presenting the gift.

The writer of Hebrews gives a lengthy and concise description of the sacrifice of Christ shown in the sacrificial ordinances of the Mosaic Law. These sacrifices pointed to Christ and are fulfilled in Him. “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God” (Hebrews 13:15-16 ESV). Our righteous sacrifices and offerings are no longer clean animals but ourselves, abandoned to Him, living in the world as a testament to Him as He prepares us for eternity.

Though the Psalms show the thinking of the heart of Jesus Christ as He lived and ministered in the world and His trust in God, this is the first time in the Psalms the word trustis used. Trust means to have confidence in and to be bold for the Object of trust, because one is secure and safe in His presence. Trust is one of the basic elements of faith. Faith is always in an object one believes has worked and made promises and demands obedience.

Believing is the intellectual element of knowing the truth of God’s works in creation. Obedience is the willful, volitional element doing that which is a natural, essential part of the image of God in obeying the direction given. Trust is the emotional-moral element based on the promises of God. All three elements make up faith. Remove or lessen the action of any one of the elements and faith becomes something other than faith. It is always the Object which determines the truthfulness of faith. Only God can deliver that which He promises. No idol can ever promise anything let alone deliver on a promise. Idolatry becomes the person infusing a non-living, non-existent, or demonic entity with a fantasy promise based on a superstitious and unfounded belief.

Jesus was the only person who has ever lived who both completely trusted God and made promises to us only He can keep. Speaking to His disciples about Lazarus, Jesus declared He was going to raise him from the dead. “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him” (John 11:11 ESV). Jesus told Martha that those who believed in Him, which means trust Him, will not die spiritually. This declaration is a promise. “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26 ESV). There are two more incidents which follow the raising of Lazarus found within the context of the story. Jesus promises that those who follow Him and serve Him will be with Him in eternity. “If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him” (John 12:26 ESV).

Jesus worked to glorify God. His promise follows God’s voice, thundering from heaven, that God will glorify His name and the Name of His Son. “But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again” (John 12:27-28 ESV). Jesus then promises to draw all people to Himself as He is crucified, hanging on the cross. He also promises to defeat the Deceiver. “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:30-32 ESV).

Jesus trusted God. Facing physical trauma, being tortured to death, produced emotional reactions from Him. He agonized over completing God’s will on the cross.

“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. (Luke 22:42-44 ESV)

Trust is an emotional act of the will believing that God will fulfill the promises He has made. We can trust God because Jesus trusted God. God always delivers what He promises.

Peter’s Denial

Studies in First Peter

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:1 ESV)

Luke 54-60 – Parallel Passages: Matt. 26:31-35, 69-75; Mark 14:27-31, 66-72; John 13:37-38; 18:15-18, 25-27

Peter may be the leader of the group of disciples but he represented every person in his actions at Jesus’ arrest. Do his arrogant boasts of following Christ to prison and death represent all Christians? Do his rash reactions, like swinging a sword and cutting off the ear of one of the people who came to arrest Jesus, represent all Christians? Does his running away when confronted by the world represent all Christians? Peter, and the other disciples, abandoned Christ, just as He said they would. Only Mark and Matthew tell us Jesus’ disciples ran away in fear. “And they all left him and fled” (Mark 14:50 ESV; see Matthew 26:56). Jesus had already predicted that those who were with Him would scatter. During His last the Passover celebration He taught them about Himself and the coming of the Holy Spirit. He was leaving them and going back to His Father.

Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. (John 16:32-33 ESV)

Jesus also tells them that their abandoning Him was prophesied long ago. “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered’” (Mark 14:27 ESV; see Zechariah 13:7). Zechariah wrote his prophecy over 500 years earlier. Jesus does not condemn His disciples for what they will do but encourages them to not allow their fallen nature to overcome them. He tells them to take heart for He has overcome the world.

Peter, and those with him, will run away. We must be honest with ourselves, we would probably run away also, under the same circumstances. I would probably run away. One of characteristics of the fallen nature is the tug and pull away from righteousness even when the image of God within drives toward Him who is righteous. We are afraid of the world and have such little or nonexistent faith in God that when the world rears its violent head we may fight for a moment but eventually flee. No one, in and of themselves, is strong enough to stand against the force of the world directed by the venomous lies of the Deceiver. Only God is strong. We do not overcome the world. Jesus overcomes the world. We must be driven to the place where we recognize His strength in us under His control. This is what happens with Peter and the other disciples.

Once Jesus was arrested Peter and John followed at a distance. We assume John went because John records what happens. John is known to the High Priest and helps bring Peter into the courtyard where Jesus is being interrogated. Three times Peter is asked about his relationship with Jesus and three times he denies knowing Him.

Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house, and Peter was following at a distance. And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.”

And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.”

And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. (Luke 22:54-60 ESV).

Three times in an hour, Peter denied knowing Christ even though he was the leader of the disciples. Two things happened. Jesus who was enduring the derisive grilling of those who hated Him turned and looked at Peter. Jesus knew Peter was there because Jesus was aware of everything that was happening and that would happen. “And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:61-62 ESV). When Peter realized what he had done he broke down and wept. He saw the emptiness of his boasting and his actions grieved him.

Our sin and the realization of the consequences of our sin, should drive us to grief. But the life of the Christian does not stop with grief and mourning. Peter did not fade away but became the leader of the Church, the Body of Christ. Peter may have momentarily abandoned Jesus but Jesus will never abandon him, or us. Though Satan asked to sift him, and God gave Satan permission to do so, Jesus still prayed for Peter and told him what to do once the trial was over. “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32 ESV). Peter would live out his life in faith doing exactly what Christ instructed. Peter would strengthen all those who follow Christ throughout the ages.

Peter’s Denial of Christ

Studies in First Peter

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:1 ESV)

Luke 22:31-34, 54-62 (see also Matthew 26:31-35, 69-75; Mark 14:27-31, 66-72; John 13:37-38; 18:15-18, 25-27

It is the night before Jesus’ trial and crucifixion. Jesus knows what will happen in a few hours, having foreseen His coming trial, execution and resurrection. For this reason He came as a man. He and His disciples are eating the Passover meal. Passover is a physical representation of a spiritual reality. God instituted the Passover as an annual celebration, so the Jews would remember when He brought their nation out of Egypt. God instructed the Jews to eat the first Passover meal before the last plague to strike the nation of Egypt and before Pharaoh before released the Jewish people. When the Angel of death passed over the land, He struck down the first born of all who had not covered the doorposts of their homes with the blood of a sacrificed lamb.

For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD. The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt. (Exodus 12:12-13 ESV)

God knew what He was going to do from creation and the fall of Adam and Eve, and systematically told His people and the world the events that would accomplish His redemption of those who are His. Passover is an annual reminder that God has redeemed those who are His by the blood of His Son. Jesus celebrated the Passover with His disciples before He became the sacrificed Passover lamb whose blood covers those redeemed by God.

During the meal Jesus predicted Peter’s denial of his relationship with Him. Jesus used Peter’s given name twice. Then He tells us something we could never know had He not divulged the facts. Satan had demanded from God that it might tempt Peter. “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat”  (Luke 22:31 ESV). Demanded means to be given over for torture or punishment. Satan is concentrating its strength on the leader of the disciples in an attempt to destroy the continuity Jesus had built into the group over the years of His ministry. Like Job, Satan wanted to tempt and try Peter to see if his faith was real or a fabrication. Like Job, God gave permission for Satan to do its work (see Job 1:6-22 and 2:1-10).

Jesus does not leave Peter to his own strengths. Faith is a conduit God uses, through which God delivers all the tools needed to live for God in a world that hates God and persecutes Christians. Jesus tells Peter that “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32 ESV). Jesus’ prayer is eternally powerful. Though Peter must endure the assaults and attacks of the enemy, through the strength provided by God, he will endure. If Peter had to rely upon his own strength, his failure was assured. Peter received God’s strength in him under God’s control. He would fall because of his sin, but would rise again to work for God because of God’s strength. Knowing this, Jesus gave Peter his marching orders. His purpose was to strengthen your brothers, all those who follow Christ and must endure the assaults of the Deceiver.

In Peter’s mind and heart there was no possibility of him rejecting Jesus. Peter made a brash statement, boasting of something he would soon regret.  This is a characteristic of very person who tries to live for Christ using their own human strength and wisdom. “Peter said to him, ‘Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death’” (Luke 22:33 ESV). Peter declared he was ready to die for Christ. He heard Jesus tell them they must pick up their crosses and follow Him. Having followed Jesus this far, he was convinced of his willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice for Jesus.

Jesus, knowing the hearts of men, allows for temporary failure to build eternal success. Jesus knows what will actually happen because He is God and knows all things. “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me” (Luke 22:34 ESV). Roosters do not just crow as day is breaking but while it is still dark in the early morning hours. Peter, adamantly convinced he would never forsake Jesus, denied he knew Jesus three times before the rooster crowed, while it was still dark.

This prediction must have devastated Peter’s sensibilities. He could easily have been angry and hurt by what Jesus told him. In his mind and heart, he would do what he said he would do. When Jesus was arrested, it was Peter who struck the servant of the High Priest with a sword. “Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) So Jesus said to Peter, ‘Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?’” (John 18:10-11 ESV). Peter was rebuked by Jesus, even after being told to bring a sword, because he used the sword. His discouragement and confusion must have been great.

But Peter had already heard Jesus’ words. He may not have remembered them until later. “But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32 ESV). God used his failings to prepare him for greater service.