Sorrow Unto Life – Matthew 26:69-75

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Faith Bible Church, NY

July 16, 1995

Sorrow Unto Life

Matthew 69-75

In 2 Corinthians 7:10 the Apostle Paul writes, “For the sorrow that is according to God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation; but the sorrow of the world produces death.”

This week and next week we will be looking at these two different kinds of sorrow as seen in the life of Peter, who had sorrow unto life, and that of Judas, who had sorrow unto death. From these two examples we will see the necessity in our own lives of responding properly to sin.

Turn with me to Matthew 26:69. Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard, and a certain servant-girl came to him and said, “You too were with Jesus the Galilean.” But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you are talking about.” And when he had gone out to the gateway, another servant-girl saw him and said to those who were there, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” And again he denied it with an oath, “I do not know the man.” And a little later the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Surely you too are one of them; for the way you talk gives you away.” Then he began to curse and swear, “I do not know the man!” And immediately a cock crowed. And Peter remembered the word which Jesus had said, “Before a cock crows, you will deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.

I have heard Peter referred to by some preachers as “old foot in the mouth” because Peter tended to say things before thinking and later ended up eating his words. The incident which we just read was the most serious of these events Peter ever experienced. Recall from our study a few weeks ago in verses 31-35 of this chapter that Peter had made an extremely strong boast concerning his loyalty to Christ and yet that is not contrasted with what is the strongest possible denial of Christ.

Jesus had held the Passover meal with the disciples and had changed that memorial feast into the Lord’s Supper. After they had finished the meal, they left the Upper Room and headed to the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. As they were walking along Jesus told the disciples in verse 31, “You will all fall away because of Me this night, for it is written, ‘I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered. But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.”

Now Jesus had been preparing the disciples for sometime that He was going to be persecuted and would be crucified in Jerusalem. He prepares them further saying that this was the night that would begin the events leading to His crucifixion. Jesus tells them that He would be struck down and they would be scattered, but He also reassured them that all was according to God’s plan for after He was raised from the dead, they were to meet Him in Galilee.

Jesus was not upset with them. He was not even accusing them, but simply telling them what would happen next and what they were to do afterward. But Jesus words struck deeply at Peter’s pride, so Peter answered in verse 33, “Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away.” This was quite a boast and it was in effect saying that he was better than all the rest for they might indeed stumble, but Peter was convinced that He could never do such a thing.

Jesus was then even stronger with Peter saying in verse 34, “Truly I say to you that this very night, before a cock crows, you shall deny Me three times.” This should have shaken Peter up to the reality of what Jesus was saying. Jesus was prophesying that Peter would deny the Lord three times that very night before a rooster would crow which would be in only a few more hours.

Peter is even stronger in his response in verse 35. “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny you.” All the disciples said the same thing too. Peter’s boasting lead to the others boasting the same thing.

Think a moment about what is happening here and who is speaking. This is Jesus telling Peter what was going to occur and Peter saying that it would not occur. Peter was refusing to believe what Jesus was saying, and instead boasting that it could not happen because he would not let it happen.

Nothing really changes with man. Do we not often act the same way? We end up contradicting what God says in the Scriptures and claim it will work out differently because we say so? The scriptures warn us repeatedly about being careful of getting into compromising situations. We are told specifically in 1 Cor. 10:12 that “he who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” Paul did not tell Timothy to consider himself above temptation but simply to “flee youthful lusts.” You cannot take fire into your bosom without getting burned (Prov. 6:27). We are not told that because we are a “king’s kid” we can simply rebuke Satan and make him run. Instead we are told that he is like a roaring lion seeking whom he might devour, so we had better have all our armor on (Eph. 6). We must submit to God, resist the devil and then he will flee (James 4:7). We are told in Romans 13:14 that we are vulnerable to all sorts of temptation so we are to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provisions for the flesh.” Even with these warnings from the scriptures how often do we still ignore them and go into circumstances in our own strength, unprepared for what was ahead. Whether it is an unguarded heart that is caught up in an adulterous relationship or an unguarded tongue that spreads gossip or an unguarded mouth that become gluttonous, we stumble the same way Peter did because we do not believe and therefore do not take seriously what God says. We think of ourselves as being stronger and wiser than we are.

Peter also got into trouble because he did not heed Jesus warnings to “watch and pray that [he] may not enter into temptation (vs. 41).” Instead, Peter slept along with James and John.

The mob came and arrested Jesus and while Peter made an initial defense with his sword, even that was done in his own strength and wisdom. Jesus had just knocked over the whole crowd of people who had come to arrest Him by speaking to them and telling them that He was the “I Am” (John 18:6). Jesus did not need Peter to defend Him. Jesus rebuked Peter in verse 52-54, telling Peter to put away the sword and that He had at His disposal 12 legions of angels ready to defend Him, but what was occurring was according to the Father’s will as prophesied long before.

At this point all the disciples fled, but Peter started following at a distance. He wanted to be near Jesus but was afraid to be too close. Verse 58 tells us that Peter was able to gain entrance into the courtyard of the high priest and there he sat down with the officers to see what the outcome would be.

This is where Matthew picks up Peter’s story again. It was early Spring and the night air would have been chilly. It was dark enough that Peter felt safe to come near the fire and warm himself. This was not a place Peter needed to be. Jesus had already told all His disciples what the outcome of the trial would be. Jesus would be condemned and crucified. Peter was in the wrong place because he still refused to believe what Jesus had said. Peter had set himself up for temptation and for failure.

The sam e is true for us. God’s promise in 1 Cor. 10:13 is true. “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.” Yet we need to recognize that we give into the temptation on many occasions because we do not take God’s way of escape. Peter had already been given a way of escape, but he refused to take and put himself in the danger situation again.

We do not need to be like Peter and we do not need to be like the man who struggled with pornography but refused to cancel his subscriptions to those filthy magazines, and refused to take a different route to work that would not take him by the pornography shop. Nothing in the Bible says we are supposed to stay in a situation to see how much temptation we can handle. We are to make no provision for the flesh and we are to do like Joseph, and flee. If you have a problem with gluttony, then you have to limit your portions and do not keep snack foods around. If you waste time in front of the TV, then you need to find a way to restrict the temptation which may include putting it in storage to be used only on special occasions. If you are tempted to do whatever the crowd is doing, then you have to make sure you hang out with the right people.

All this may seem radical, but it really is not. If we are weak in an area we need to admit it and deal with our temptations appropriately. Our problem is that we tend to think of ourselves as more resistant to temptation than we are so we do not deal with it radically enough.

That was Peter’s problem. He continued to be proud and did not take the route of escape given to him, and so he ends up in the courtyard of the high priest sitting around a fire with members of the temple guard. As I mentioned last week, the homes of Annas and his son-in-law Caiaphas were probably next to each other. It was a common practice for homes to be built around a common courtyard, and that seems to be what occurs here. Jesus had been illegally questioned by Annas first and then tried illegally by Caiaphas and members of the Sanhedrian next. Peter was not able to go into the house where Jesus was at, so he remained in the courtyard waiting to see what would happen.

As happens so often, Peter’s temptation came from the source he least expected it. He probably thought that he would not be recognized in the dim light of the fire, but Luke tells us that a servant-girl began to look at Peter intently and then started saying first to Peter, “You too were with Jesus the Galilean,” and then to everyone else around, “This man was with Him too.” Peter was caught off guard. He was willing to take his little sword and take on a cohort of Roman soldiers earlier, but now he was being accused by a servant-girl. Peter was alone and surrounded by the enemy. Even their description of Jesus as “the Galilean” showed their disdain and hostility to Jesus for the term was used as a put down. Galileans were considered crude and uneducated. Peter’s earlier boasting came to naught as he sought self protection in lying saying, “I do not know what you are talking about.”

Peter did not stay to hear further accusations, so he went back over to the gateway which Mark further describes as a porch area. It would have been darker there and he was close to the entrance to escape if needed. But the extra caution did not help him, because it was not long before another servant girl began to say the same thing as the first, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” Mark and Luke record others as joining in accusing Peter of “being one of them.” Peter even more afraid now denies the Lord with an oath saying, “I do not know the man.” The insinuation of any Jewish oath was that it called God as a witness to what was being said. A person would use it as an assertion that what they were saying was true. Peter called God as a witness to his lie.

The oath made Peter’s denial more serious, but it did get those accusing Peter off his back for a while. Luke’s account said that it was about an hour later before anyone else said anything against Peter. John records that at this point a relative of Malchus, the man who had his ear cut off by Peter earlier, began to ask, “Did I not see you in the garden with Him?” Then as Peter began to deny that his Galilean accent brought further accusations by those around saying, “Surely you too are one of them; for the way you talk give you away.” Peter now gave the strongest denial possible. He began to curse and swear, “I do not know the man!” To swear is to pledge to be telling the truth and to curse is to call on God to kill you if you are lying. Peter, who had earlier said that he would die before he would deny Jesus was now denying Jesus and calling on God to kill him if he was lying. There could not be two more opposite extremes.

Mark records that even while Peter was saying these things, a rooster crowed and Jesus’ prophecy was fulfilled. It was also right at this time that Jesus comes into view of Peter. Whether Jesus had been moved next to a window or had been taken into the courtyard to be abused, we do not know, but Luke records that Jesus turned and looked at Peter. It would be a scene like a child who was doing something wrong and then looked up to discover their parent watching. Peter was cut to the core. He remembered that Jesus had said that he would deny the Lord three times before the cock crows. Peter also would have remembered his foolish boasting. Peter finally does what he should have done from the very beginning: he went out, but now it was with bitter tears.

If the story ended here, we would only be able to speculate on Peter’s future. What should happen to the man who denies the Lord? Jesus Himself had said in Matthew 10:33, “But whoever shall deny Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.” Peter’s fate does not look good from this stand point, nor does the fate of anyone else who would deny the Lord.

I don’t know that anyone here has ever denied the Lord to the extent that Peter did with cursing and swearing, though that is possible. But I do know that it is not uncommon for those who profess to be Christians to deny the Lord in many less extreme ways because they fear man. The denial may be direct as in those who will renounce the Lord because of a fear of what men may do to them. The denial may also be indirect in just a failure to stand up and be counted as a Christian because of a fear of being an outcast from the crowd. I think it is safe to say that all of us have in one way or another failed to proclaim the Lord when we should have, and thus denied Him. If God’s justice were not tempered with His mercy, there would be no hope for any of us, but it is mercy that we find extended to those who have godly sorrow.

It is from Peter’s later reactions that we know that Peter’s bitter tears were from genuine godly sorrow. Deep pain felt because of letting the Lord down because of one’s own sinfulness. There is an ache in the heart because the relationship is broken and you want it restored again. This kind of sorrow will be contrasted next week with the sorrow of being caught, the sorrow of unrepentant regret, the sorrow leading to death.

Peter had left the courtyard weeping bitterly. He had denied the Lord. He had failed and caused hurt to the one who loved. He had been proven to be weak. His world had crashed around him. What was Peter to do now the one that ‘had the words of eternal life’ was condemned? Scripture does not tell us what Peter did the rest of that night or the next couple of days. The only disciple noted as being present at Jesus’ crucifixion is John. There is no record of anyone’s activities on Saturday which was the Sabbath.

On the morning of the resurrection when Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Salome and Joanna went to the tomb to put burial spices on Jesus the Angel specifically told them to “tell His disciples and Peter ” that “He is going before them into Galilee” (Mark 16:7), which is what Jesus had told them before He was arrested. Peter is specifically singled out to be reassured that everything was working out according to God’s plan, and that God was not finished with Him yet. The women found Peter and John together and they went to the tomb. Sometime later that day, Jesus appeared to Peter alone (Luke 24:34). We have no record of what the Lord said to Peter on this occasion, but it would appear that reconciliation took place. In John 21, when Jesus is again alone with Peter, it is for the purpose of reestablishing him to ministry. Throughout the Book of Acts Peter does just that and boldly proclaims the gospel without backing down regardless of the threats.

There is much to learn from Peter’s failure. From the negative side there is the tragedy of pride, ignoring what God says, trusting in oneself, and staying in a place of temptation. From the positive side we see the importance of humility and believing what God says and trusting Him, of being spiritually prepared, and taking advantage of the escapes from temptation God provides. But more important than any other lesson is that God can and will use the person that falls into sin if there is genuine sorrow that leads to repentance and forgiveness. Peter’s sorrow was a godly one that led to a restored relationship with Christ and being used in His service. That gives us hope too.

Peter understood how deep a person can fall into sin and so he understood the wonderful grace and mercy of God. No wonder he began his comments in 1 Peter 1:3 by saying, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…” And no wonder he concluded his second letter with this admonition in 2 Peter 3:17,18, “You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard lest, being carried away by the error of unprincipled men, you fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”

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