The Brokenness of Peter

We are meditating on the drama of the hours before the crucifixion of Christ (scroll down for yesterday’s thoughts), and today, especially, the three-time denial of Peter the disciple, soon to be apostle. Before he can become an apostle, the Lord allows him to become broken at his failure to be all that both he and Christ wants him to be. After already denying Christ twice, pressure builds again and he caves under it:

73After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them, for your accent gives you away.” 74Then he began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!” Immediately a rooster crowed. 75Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly (Matthew 26:73-75).

Luke gives us more insight into what finally broke Peter’s heart and causing him to weep bitterly:

59About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.” 60Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. 61The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” 62And he went outside and wept bitterly (Luke 22:59-62).

How painful it was to hear the cock crow a second time and be immediately reminded of Jesus’ words that, before the cock crows, Peter would deny his Lord three times. In God’s sovereignty, the very same instant that Peter heard the cock crowing was the same time when Jesus was brought out of the house of Annas, to be taken across the courtyard to the house of Caiaphas. As soon as the words of his third denial left Peter’s lips, the Lord looked at Peter and their eyes connected. There was no accusation in Jesus’ eyes, only sadness for Peter. The Greek word translated “looked” (v. 61) is emblepo. This word describes a fixed look, almost a stare. This look from Jesus broke Peter’s heart; he remembered all his protestations that he was capable of standing in the hour of trial, but instead, he failed miserably. He went outside the courtyard and wept bitterly. The verb “wept” describes a weeping, mournful cry like those who are grieving the death of a loved one. He was brokenhearted at his failure.

Why is Peter’s failure recorded for us in such depth? Why would the Holy Spirit inspire each of the Gospel writers to focus on Peter’s denial? It is because God’s purpose is for a broken and contrite heart. We are not to focus so much on Peter’s failure as we are to his brokenness and repentance. How quickly he repented. We may never have denied Jesus with our lips in the way that Peter did, but I am sure that, at one time or another, we have denied Him with our actions. This passage is recorded for us to show us God’s mercy and complete forgiveness. God often allows us to experience pain, for it is an excellent teacher. Often, it is only when our pain makes us hit rock bottom and we are broken of our pride and self-adequacy, that we are brought to a place where we look to our Savior.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise (Psalm 51:17).

Peter was brought to a place of brokenness. The place of our brokenness is the place where God can step in and save and heal us. God’s school of training is more than Bible college and more than head knowledge. His training often includes brokenness and contriteness of heart. He molds and shapes our character through everyday situations. Some of the situations can be very trying, e.g. the death of a family member, a financial need, an impatient child. The list is endless.

The LORD will judge [for and on behalf of] his people and have compassion on his servants when he sees their strength is gone and no one is left, slave or free (Deuteronomy 32:36).

While we have adequate resources to fight our own battles, the Lord lets us carry on until we come to the place of brokenness and an end to fleshly ways and self. The Spirit will bring us to a place where we find ourselves devoid of help, having no strength left to accomplish what needs to be done, having no back-up plan, and no one but God to call to for help. That is the point at which God steps in to fight our battles for us. When we are weak, then we are strong in Him (1 Corinthians 1:27-29).  May it be so with you, dear reader.

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 61, Peter, the Broken Disciple (Luke 22:54-62). Keith Thomas

Peter’s Denial of Jesus

We are meditating on the events surrounding the crucifixion of Christ, looking at Peter’s denial that he knew Jesus. When Peter and John arrived at the palace, it was John who knocked on the outer gate to the courtyard. Because he knew the servants, he gained entrance first and then came back with a servant girl to also let in Peter. The two parted after they gained entrance. We are not told why, but the reason, perhaps, is because Peter would have been afraid to be seen by Malchus, the servant of the high priest whose ear Peter had cut off. John, perhaps, went in to listen to the gathering of leaders over the different court proceedings over the next few hours. Because it was cold that evening, Peter warmed himself by the fire.

56A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.” 57But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said. 58A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” “Man, I am not!” Peter replied (Luke 22:56-58).

What had reduced the Apostle Peter to deny being a disciple in front of a servant girl? Could it be that this first denial of Peter was because he was afraid that the young girl would call the soldiers? We cannot tell what fears were in his mind at that moment. Let’s give Peter credit that he chose to stay longer. Luke tells us that he sat down with a group of people warming themselves by a fire after the first denial (Luke 22:55). Apparently, the young girl did not believe Peter’s first denial and came up close to see his face in the light of the fire. Matthew tells us that the fireside denial was before a number of people:

69Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said. 70But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said (Matthew 26:69-70).

Luke tells us that the servant girl looked closely at him seated in front of the fire, and she accused him before the other people sitting around the fire, saying, “this man was also with him” (Luke 22:56). His denial to those around the fire constituted his second denial. This is often the way temptation comes to us. We give the enemy an inch, and he takes a foot. We give him a foot, and he takes a yard. We give a yard, and he takes a mile. We must be aware not to compromise an inch of our lives to the enemy of our souls. It seems that Peter was now afraid that his cover was blown, and he needed to get away from the fire in the courtyard. Matthew tells us that he moved to the gateway, trying to find an exit:

71Then he went out to the gateway, where another girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.” 72He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!” (Matthew 26:71-72).

There is nothing to tell us that the household servants would have done anything to Peter. He had been reduced to his denials out of his own fear. Luke tells us that an hour went by between the second denial and the third and last. About the time of the last denial, John gives us a bit more information, perhaps, because he was also in the courtyard and recognized the one challenging Jesus as a relative of Malchus. Those around the fire now had a witness that made Peter completely lose his composure. John tells us:

One of the high priest’s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, “Didn’t I see you with him in the olive grove?” (John 18:26).

The picture we should get is that of several people suspiciously looking at Peter. The pressure of the witness, together with a few of the servants around him, made him call down curses on himself, wishing himself a violent death at God’s hand if he was lying about knowing Jesus. How sad this strikes us, but many of us have had instances where we have denied our Lord, maybe not with words but with our sinful actions. If you are one of those, know that the forgiveness of the Lord is for you. There is grace to cover our sin. Cry out to Christ for Him to forgive you and He will abundantly pardon (Isaiah 55:7). We will share what happened at Peter’s third denial tomorrow.

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 61, Peter, the Broken Disciple (Luke 22:54-62). Keith Thomas

The Holy Spirit’s Work in Transforming Peter

We are meditating on the drama the night before the crucifixion of Christ, and especially God’s work in Peter to prepare him to be strong in faith and trust in Christ. He had to be broken of his own strong will. When we are confident that we have it all together, we are vulnerable to attack by our enemy, Satan. Paul wrote about this when he said, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:12). Peter would be a leader and a model to those around him, so God had to deal with his overconfidence by putting him through a trial, i.e. a test that would strengthen him when he was restored to dependence on Christ. After walking with Christ for more than forty years now, I have found that God is at work in our lives (Philippians 2:13) to transform us and make us more like Himself. Paul talks about this process as something that starts slowly and increases with time as we are obedient to the Spirit of God. As this happens, we reflect His glory, and our lives have a transforming effect on those around us as well.

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18).

The Greek word metamorphoō is the word that is translated with our English word “transformed.”  It means “a change of place, condition or form. To transform, transmute, to alter fundamentally. Used of spiritual transformation, it is an invisible process in Christians. This change takes place during our lives in this age.”[1] This is the ongoing training that Peter was still experiencing even just before the crucifixion. Henry Ward Beecher put it this way: “Happiness is not the end of life; character is.” Once we become Christians, God is at work in our lives to make us into people of character, and our character is measured by our responses to life’s trials and difficulties. God is determined that Peter will be fruitful, not in his abilities but totally reliant on His Lord. It is the same with all of us who follow Christ. D.L. Moody once said, “Character is what a man is in the dark.” What kind of things is God using in your life this day?  Do you see any testing and revealing of your character?

Peter was likely scared. He had no way of knowing if these were his last hours. He displayed great courage to even be in the courtyard of the high priest, but surely there were questions in his mind as to why Jesus had allowed himself to be arrested. He had witnessed the power of Christ when all the Roman soldiers in Gethsemane had been put on their backs at just a few simple words of Christ. Why didn’t Christ run? When John and Peter followed Jesus to the palace of the high priest, Peter, perhaps, thought that maybe he could be a witness for Christ at any trial that would take place.

Now, at the high priest’s palace, Jesus was taken first to the residence of Annas, who began to question Christ, hoping to get something from Him, i.e. to find some charge with which to accuse Christ at the trial before the Sanhedrin, the ruling seventy elders, as soon as it was light. The law said that there could not be less than twenty-three members of the Sanhedrin to try a capital case, and Annas knew that his son-in-law Caiaphas was rounding up that number to hold the court proceedings. It was also against the law to try a person while it was yet dark. The whole arrest and court proceedings of Jesus was a travesty of the justice system, but God had allowed His Son to go through such things in order to show us that He can sympathize with us in all the injustice that the believer in Christ will go through, and yet not retaliate. The test for Peter, though, was just ahead when he was asked to testify to his knowing of Christ. I pray that you, also, will stand the test.

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 61, Peter, the Broken Disciple (Luke 22:54-62). Keith Thomas

[1] Key Word Study Bible, AMG Publishers, 3565 Metamorphoō, page 1651.