Saturday, June 03, 2006

Learning From Peter's Denial of Jesus

Because I will be taking up a new position at Toronto Baptist Seminary in July I am going to have to hurry to bring my exposition of Matthew's Gospel to a close at PBF. With only 4 Sundays in June we still have two chapters to go before we come to the end of this glorious gospel. That means that this Sunday evening we are going to look at the last section of chapter 26 and the first section of chapter 27. Or to put it another way, we are going to look at Peter's denial of Jesus and Judas' betrayal. Although we will not be able to look at these events in detail there are a number of valuable lessons to learn.

With regard to Peter we learn that when it comes to serving Jesus, human strength is not enough. Peter was a strong man, physically and mentally, but he was no match for the sifting of Satan on the eve of Jesus' crucifixion. We may be strong and have many gifts and abilities, but we cannot serve Jesus in our own human strength or wisdom. Satan is too strong and we are too weak. We must always look to the Lord for help.

We also learn that we should never underestimate the constraining influence of our surroundings. Peter stood his ground when he was with the other disciples. He even tried to defend Jesus when the arresting officers came to take him away. But in the courtyard of the high priest, around the campfire, he was isolated and afraid. In a single evening his whole world had begun to fall apart and he fell flat on his face. It is much easier to stand and be counted in some situations than in others. Generally speaking, isolation can be very dangerous for believers. So too can a situation in which we are outnumbered by those who do not share our commitment to Jesus. When we find ourselves in such an environment we need to identify ourselves as Christians right away. It is better that everyone knows where we are coming from right off the bat. It also means that we need to pick our close friends carefully and be discerning when it comes to the mass media. We are not islands and usually not as strong as we like to think we are. Better to be safe than sorry.

A third lesson we learn from Peter's experience is that preparation for usefulness is not easy. After Peter denied the Lord he went outside and wept bitterly. What he did not understand at the time is that the Lord was preparing him for future service in the kingdom. This was an experience that Peter had to pass through for all sorts of very important reasons. And like Peter, we are called to go through events that are sometimes very painful; a kind of spiritual "boot camp" experience. The trouble is that we don't always understand that whatever the trial, the embarrassment, the setbacks; if we belong to Jesus, these things have come into our lives for our good. In fact, the writer to the Hebrews says: Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons... No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. Make level paths for your feet, so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed (12:7-11).

To be continued...

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