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Peter’s Denial

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
June 16, 2023 12:01 am

Peter’s Denial

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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June 16, 2023 12:01 am

On the same night when he took up a sword to defend Jesus from soldiers, Peter denied the Lord, intimidated by a servant girl. Today, R.C. Sproul preaches from the gospel of Matthew, examining Peter's wavering and urging us not to shrink from identifying with Christ.

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The Christian church has been built on the shoulders and on the backs of heroic men and women who were not ashamed to be identified with the Lord Jesus Christ. And so I urge you, dear brothers and sisters, that you never shrink from your identity with Jesus.

We have to be willing to be humiliated in the social strata in which we live. That's the cost of what it means to be a Christian, but it's a cost that is so slight and so small that it's infinitesimal compared to the cost that was paid for your redemption. Jesus warns that whoever is ashamed of Him and His words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when He comes in His glory. Yet when we're asked if we're Christians, particularly in a public setting, at work, maybe at school, it can be easy to fumble and not be as bold as we ought to be.

Hi, I'm Nathan W. Bingham, and thank you for joining us today for Renewing Your Mind. Perhaps the most well-known example of someone denying Jesus is the Apostle Peter. As was foretold, he denied the Lord not once, not twice, but three times. Today on Renewing Your Mind, we find ourselves in Matthew's gospel, and R.C. Sproul will preach on this great denial of Jesus, but also the great restoration that follows.

Here's Dr. Sproul. Well, today we continue with our study of the gospel according to Saint Matthew. We're still in chapter 26 at the very end of it. I'll be reading verse 69 through verse 75, and I would ask the congregation please to stand for the reading of the Word of God. Now Peter sat outside in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him, saying, saying, You also were with Jesus of Galilee. But he denied it before them all, saying, I do not know what you are saying. And when he had gone out to the gateway, another girl saw him and said to those who were there, This fellow also was with Jesus of Nazareth. But again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man. And a little later those who stood by came up and said to Peter, Surely you also are one of them, for your speech betrays you. Then he began to curse and swear, saying, I do not know the man. And immediately a rooster crowed, and Peter remembered the Word of Jesus, who had said to him, Before the rooster crows, the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.

And so he went out and wept bitterly. A shameful moment in the life of this Apostle, the record of which is given to us by God the Holy Spirit. The truth of this record is impeccable, and of course we are to receive it as the very Word of God.

Please be seated. Let us pray. Now Father, as we look at the text that we have just heard, we pray that the full measure of its import may be understood by us, that indeed we who think that we stand, who are in danger of falling may be admonished by this example of the Apostle. And so we ask again that you would give us ears to hear and hearts to obey your Word. For we ask it in Jesus' name.

Amen. I have said many times as we go through progressively, expositionally, through books of the Bible, that we have the normal interlude of a week's time between the hearing of one text and then the examination of the next one, while the events recorded were taking place seriatim with no week's lapse between them. And so if I were to put you to a test this morning and ask you what the last thing we heard of the record of these things in the life of Jesus in last week's text, I wonder if you would recall what it was. It was not that they spit in His face. You all remember that part. It's the part that came at the end of the text where after we read that they spat in His face and beat Him and others struck Him with the palms of their hands, they said to Him, and as they said to Him, prophesy to us, Christ, who is the one who struck you?

You remember that? The last thing we read last week was the taunting mockery of Jesus' tormentors who, as the other synoptic gospels tell us, they blindfolded Him. And while He was blindfolded, they pushed Him around, played blind man's bluff, and they hit Him with sticks, and they said, okay Messiah, prophesy for us.

Tell us which one of us hit you, making fun of the idea that Jesus had the supernatural ability as an agent of revelation to speak prophetically. And the irony of this particular record is that the very next passage that Matthew gives to us is the record of the exact fulfillment of prophecy that Jesus had uttered in the upper room concerning the denial of Peter, in which our Lord said that before the rooster crowed that Peter would deny Him three times. And of course, we remember the blustering protest that came from the lips of Peter, never, Lord, I will go to death with you, and I will never deny you. Now here's the rest of the story and what actually happened. When Jesus was taken in the garden by the soldiers, we also remember that all the disciples fled, but Peter followed the arresting group at a safe distance.

And after they took Jesus into captivity and took Him into the judgment hall, Peter stayed out in the courtyard where he could keep an ear open to follow the proceedings that were going on just across the way to see how this was going to turn out. And as he was there in the courtyard, we read, a servant girl came to him saying, you also were with Jesus of Galilee, but he denied it before them all. Saying, I don't know what you're saying. I have no idea what you're talking about.

What do you mean? Now, Peter in this denial is not disavowing his knowledge of Jesus to the temple authorities, to the soldiers that came armed with swords and clubs to arrest Jesus at night. In the first place, we understand that this public denial of Jesus was to a woman. Now understand, this was before women's lib. This was back in the ancient world where women had very little clout, very little authority, and certainly were not to be feared, except of course by their husbands.

Some things never change. Not only was she a woman, she was a young woman. She was just a girl. And not only was she just a girl, she was a slave. Of all the people who may have been gathered around that courtyard in Jerusalem that night, the least person that Peter had to fear was this little slave girl. She said, aren't you with Jesus? She said, I don't know what you're talking about.

Can you imagine that? This is a man who just an hour or so before had taken out a sword and cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest in a bold, dramatic, defiant act against the power of the police. And now he cowers in fear in front of a slave girl.

I don't know what you're talking about. And then a little while later if we follow this, we notice, by the way, this strange phenomenon about this incident that it appears in all four of the gospels. Some details are added by other gospel writers, but the incident itself is recorded in every one of them. And these gospels were written at a time when Peter had risen to become the leader of the Christian church in Jerusalem, if not in the whole world. And the gospel writers didn't shrink from recording for us this shameful behavior of the Apostle. In fact, we may even guess how Mark knew about it, but probably from the lips of Peter himself, who after he repented of this, he was forgiven, he was restored, and he was elevated to the position of leadership of the band of Apostles. And that in itself says something about Peter. He was embarrassed, and he was ashamed in the first instance of his association with Jesus. Imagine that, an Apostle, a disciple, being ashamed to being associated with Jesus. But as we will see, beloved, after he communicated that shame of Jesus, the shame he felt for himself far exceeded his embarrassment to be identified with Christ. But this didn't happen one time.

It happens three times. And the second time after some interlude, we don't know how long it took, but when he had gone out to the gateway, maybe just to escape this little servant girl that was scaring him, another girl saw him, and she said to those who were there, this fellow also was with Jesus of Nazareth. But again, he denied, listen to this, with an oath. He denied with an oath, I do not know the man. Why were oaths introduced into the culture of Israel? The Bible says all men are liars.

We can't trust everything people say to us. And even when we come to the altar to be married, we make promises to each other, but we seal those promises with vows. We take sacred oaths to underline emphatically that we're speaking the truth. And so now, the second time, Peter doesn't just deny Jesus. He testifies his denial by swearing an oath. It's like saying, may God as my witness, I don't know the man. Appealing to God to bear witness to his lie. In Jewish courts, this is perjury, pure and simple, since he calls upon God to verify his denial. Do you see how far the human heart will go to protect a lie?

But wait, there's more. Now it happens again, and again. A little later, those who stood by came up and said to Peter, surely you also are one of them, for your speech betrays you. Obviously, his accent revealed that he was a Galilean. Now not everyone who was a Galilean, not every Galilean who was in Jerusalem that night was a follower of Jesus, but that was suspect to give enough suspicion to him just by virtue of his accent. Now he gets angry about these questions about his relationship with Jesus.

And listen to this. He began to curse and swear, saying, I do not know the man. And the word that is used here in the Greek text is the word anatema, that is the word, let it be damned, let it be cursed, let it be anathema upon anybody who says that I know this man. And he pronounces his curse upon anybody that accuses him. And then he begins to swear and unleash this verbal torrent of abuse on anyone who would suggest that he was a follower of Christ.

You wonder how the human heart could sink much lower than this. But no sooner were those words out of his mouth, no sooner than the blasphemous anathemas were proclaimed, two things happened immediately. One of them is recorded only by Luke. It is not here in Matthew. And it was this one, perhaps the most poignant one. It was immediately after the third denial, Jesus across the way turned and looked at Peter, and their eyes met.

You know, I would guess that that was the most horrible moment ever experienced in the life of Peter. This is the man who just days before in Caesarea Philippi when Jesus said, who do you say that I am, who gave the great confession? Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. Now with cursing, I don't know the man. When he gave his confession of faith, Jesus turned to him and said, blessed art thou, Simon Parjona. Flesh and blood hath not revealed this to you but my Father who is in heaven.

You are blessed to know who I am. And now he is saying, not only do I not know who he is, I don't know him at all. And at that moment Jesus looked at him. There is no record that Jesus ever said anything to him at this point. Did Jesus need to say anything at this point? Would you like to be in Peter's skin looking after just denying Christ and seeing Christ lift up his eyes, beaten and bruised, looking at you in the eye? That was the first thing that happened as soon as he finished the third denial.

The second thing was that the rooster began to crow, and it hit Peter. This is exactly what he said I would do. And I've just done it. I said I would never do it. I would never allow myself to stoop this low, but I just did it. And he went away weeping and sobbing uncontrollably. Now Peter was so ashamed of himself that the curses stopped, and the tears began to gush from his eyes. Is there anybody in this room that can't relate to this?

Is there anybody in this room who hasn't said they would never do something like this and then turn around and did it? And then have it made manifest to you the enormity of what you've done? God grant that when that happens to us, our response is the same as Peter's, flooding the world with tears. The other great apostolic leader of the early Christian community was Paul of Tarsus, and in his magisterial letter to the church at Rome in the very first chapter before he introduces the gospel, he declares to the Romans, I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes. And then later in the epistle in chapter 10, Paul writes these words, The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart. That is the word of faith which we preach, that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes, under righteousness or under justification, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Where the Scripture said, whoever believes on him will not be put to shame. And so the Apostle Paul says that faith in our hearts must be coupled with confession with our lips. You can't join this church, and I don't know any other church that you can join, without making a confession of faith in Christ, without a creed. Creeds are called creeds from the Latin word credo, which means simply I believe. We have the Apostles' Creed, I believe, the Nicene Creed, the Athanasian Creed. We have these different creeds in which Christians confess verbally, confess with their lips what it is they believe. Every time we have a baptism here at the church, questions are posed to the parents or to the person who is being baptized, and they make a confession of faith.

But you know what? To confess your faith in Christ in church is the easiest place in the world to confess your faith. But to confess it in the world, to confess it before those who are hostile to Christianity is another matter altogether. Yesterday I was with some men, and we were watching the Army-Navy game, and particularly in the festivities before the game, including the magnificent flyover and all of that stuff. They went through the pageantry, and then they had the invocation delivered by a clergyman. And the first thing I noticed was that his eyes were open the whole time. And I thought, well, that's strange. This is a prayer. Usually we close our eyes when we give a prayer. And then I realized, I saw under the camera that he had a paper in front of him and that he was reading the prayer.

And that's why his eyes were open so he could see what he had written. And I thought, well, it's good that this clergyman has certainly given time to prepare the content of this prayer for this occasion. But I said to the men who were there, I said, I'm going to listen very, very carefully to how he ends this prayer. I was ready to bet that there would be no conclusion of the prayer with words like in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, because that's politically incorrect in public gatherings in America. And so when the man came to the end of his prayer after his last petition, you know what he said? Amen.

That was it. You would have never known that this was a Christian giving this prayer. And one of the guys in the room said, R.C., do you ever do invocations at events like this?

And I said, nope. I stopped doing these a long time ago. I stopped doing them when people would ask me to give the invocation and then tell me what I was allowed to say and what I wasn't allowed to say and that I wasn't allowed to pray through the name of Christ. And I would say, look, if you want me to give the invocation as a Christian pastor, you're asking me not to mention Christ?

Are you crazy? But that's where we are in this culture. It's a shameful thing. But you see, that's a different, that is a different venue than in the church. And when we're outside the church, that's when we go undercover. We become secret service Christians.

We don't want anybody to know that we're believers. Before I was converted to Christianity, I have to confess to you, I basically held Christians in contempt. I thought that any guy who was religious or was a Christian could not be completely virile, that he had to be a loser, certainly a wimp, if he was going to live his life under the cloak of religion.

I figured he just didn't have what it took to deal with the difficulties of life in this world. And then I became one of them. And I was looking at it from the other side of the aisle. And it came to me the first year I was a Christian. When I first became a Christian, I was so hungry for Christian fellowship and so excited when I would meet somebody and find out that they were a Christian. And I was told that there was a group that met for prayer on our college campus. And I was invited to go to that prayer meeting, at which prayer meeting, by the way, in the grace of God, some months later my wife, Besta, was converted.

But I was led to Christ by the captain of a football team. But the group that gathered for prayer were not known for their exploits on the gridiron. These were the base, the lowly, the foolish ones in terms of the campus culture. And I remember one day walking across the campus after being at one of these prayer meetings, and I said, wow, my guys at home should see me now.

My two best friends here on this campus are probably the two wimpiest guys in the school, from the school's perspective. They were fools. They were fools for Christ. And they were not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

And I was completely honored to be in their presence. And then I remember reading through the New Testament for the first time and reading the words of Jesus when He said, if you are ashamed of Me before men, I will be ashamed of you before My Father. Now I know this is something that Christians struggle with in the office, at parties, at other events. Do you want to hide your Christianity?

When somebody asks you if you're a Christian, do you say to them, I don't know what you're talking about. I'm talking about Jesus. Do you want to say, I don't know the man? Honest, I don't know the man.

Blankety, blankety, blank, I don't know the man. The Christian church has been built on the shoulders and on the backs of heroic men and women who were not ashamed to be identified with the Lord Jesus Christ. And so I urge you, dear brothers and sisters, that you never shrink from your identity with Jesus.

If you were baptized, you were given the mark of your baptism into the death of Jesus as well as the resurrection of Jesus. You have been baptized into your union with His humiliation. And so we have to be willing to be called fools for Christ. We have to be willing to be humiliated in the social strata in which we live. That's the cost of what it means to be a Christian.

But it's a cost that it is so slight and so small that it's infinitesimal compared to the cost that was paid for your redemption. Peter wept, and well he should have, and so should we when we act just like him. Let's pray. Father, forgive us for our timidity. Forgive us when we are intimidated by unbelievers. Forgive us when we seek to hide our convictions and our faith. And, O Lord, so forgive us that You will not be ashamed of us in the presence of Your Father. For we ask it in Jesus' name. Amen. The world around us continues to grow in hostility towards Christians, and I hope the lesson of Peter is an example for each of us that we may stand boldly in our time of trial and testing.

That was R.C. Sproul on this Friday edition of Renewing Your Mind with a sermon that he preached at St. Andrew's Chapel in Sanford, Florida. All week you have heard select messages, favorites from the R.C. Sproul library that we have compiled together onto a special USB drive. And this drive can be yours for your donation of any amount. When you give your gift at or by calling us at 800-435-4343, we'll send you this limited edition USB drive with 50 messages from R.C.

Sproul. Today is the final day that we're making this exclusive USB drive available to you for your donation of any amount. So I encourage you to visit Your generosity fuels all of the outreach at Ligonier Ministries, including Renewing Your Mind, keeping this program freely available to countless people around the world every single day.

Thank you. When we think of the life and ministry of Jesus, perhaps you think of his baptism, his crucifixion, his resurrection. But have you given time to consider the significance of his temptation in the wilderness? Well, next week R.C. Sproul will focus on the work of Christ, beginning Monday by considering his temptation here on Renewing Your Mind.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-06-16 04:00:14 / 2023-06-16 04:10:15 / 10

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