17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. 20 You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. 21 Surely you heard of Him and were taught in Him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
54 Then seizing Him, they led Him away and took Him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. 55 But when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. 56 A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with Him.”
57 But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said.
58 A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.”
“Man, I am not!” Peter replied.
59 About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with Him, for he is a Galilean.”
60 Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 The 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.” 62 And he went outside and wept bitterly.
A few weeks ago we looked at the apostle Paul’s words in Romans 1:16 – “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.” We know the good news of Jesus, and as Christians it is our task and our mandate to share the good news. We can’t do that if we are timid or worse, even ashamed of Jesus Christ. Jesus gives us a sterner warning in Mark 2 and Luke 9: “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”
Our first reaction when reading the account of Peter denying Jesus three times despite promising that he would not is usually, “Peter, how could you?” He actually lied and denied that he knew Jesus. Just a matter of hours earlier he said, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” Of course, it’s very easy for us to criticise him, because we weren’t there, but if we were to be completely honest, we’d have to admit that we would probably have done the same, but there is something else in this story which we do need to consider: At least those people knew that Peter had been with Jesus.
He may have denied it, but there were people that night that recognised him as someone who’d spent time with Jesus. Most of us here this morning are Christians, or at least claim to be Christians. When you leave here this morning, will anyone be able to recognise that you belong to Jesus? Is there something about you that bears a resemblance to the one you claim as Lord and Saviour?
A point that is easy to miss in the story of Peter’s denial of Jesus is that even though he made every effort to not be recognised as a follower of Jesus, he couldn’t. They still spotted him. Verse 54 tells us that he followed at a distance. He wanted to follow Jesus but he didn’t want to get too close. Peter was afraid that something might happen to him if he got too close to Jesus. Jesus had told His disciples many times what was about to happen to Him, and Peter quite naturally felt that the wisest thing to do now would be to keep his distance. He still followed Him, but not too close. Being close to Jesus now could become very costly.
In which ways do we sneak around as Christians? Within the safety of these four walls it is very easy to say we follow Jesus, but out there in the world, are we following Him, but only at a ‘safe’ distance? There are many people who are afraid to get too close to Jesus, because if they do, it may mean actually having to commit to Him. Coming to Church on Sunday mornings is one thing, but having to take the step of publicly committing ourselves to Jesus is an entirely different matter – one that many Christians struggle with. Some don’t want their friends, family, colleagues or anybody else to identify them with Jesus, because they’re afraid of what people might say or do if people found out they actually follow Him.
Some find it much easier to be a bit like Peter was at first: A believer, but one from a comfortable distance. Do people have any idea you’re a Christian, or have you hidden it really well? Peter tried to blend in with the crowd. Someone had built a fire, and people were gathering around trying to keep warm. Peter eased in with them and sat down. He was trying to be like everybody else, and he didn’t want to draw attention to himself. Peter wanted to be just one of the boys who wouldn’t be noticed as one of Jesus’ followers.
Are you trying to blend in with the rest of the world? Are you trying not to draw attention to who you claim to be? Are you trying to be like everybody else? In which ways do we try to fit into the non-Christian world? Are we Christians in camouflage? When the world looks at us outside of our Church buildings, what do they see?
Peter verbally denied Jesus. He was challenged three times, and each time he said he didn’t know Christ, but there are many ways to deny Jesus than with mere words. We deny Him when we make every effort to blend in with the rest of the world. So many Christians today are more concerned with how society sees them rather being concerned about how God sees them. They want the promise of forgiveness, and they want the promise of heaven when they die, but they’d rather have that later. The priority for now is to concern themselves with how they look to the world and how the world recognises them. People are afraid of what might happen if they’re recognised as Christians, because if they are, there’s a very good chance they might lose something in this world for the sake of Jesus. When we sneak around and try to blend in with everybody else, we’re no better than Peter, because we are denying Jesus with our lives.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Just as Peter was restored and brought back into fellowship with Jesus, He can and does do the same for us. Despite his attempts at blending in, Peter was still recognised as a Christ-follower.
One of the reasons was that he looked different from everybody else. This scene took place in the courtyard of Caiaphas, the high priest, and it’s an important detail. Caiaphas’ courtyard was not a place for the general public. The only people there were the servants, the guards and Peter, who despite not belonging there, still went in. The servant girl who challenged him would recognise the other servants, and the guards would also know each other, but Peter would stick out like a sore thumb. He would not look like the rest of those there.
A true follower of Jesus looks different to everybody else. Of course, we’re not talking about physical appearances here, but a true follower of Christ’s life looks different to those who don’t know Him. Our lives are to look different to those who are not Christians. There are many worldly things that we will not be drawn into, no matter how attractive or harmless they might appear. We will stand out by what we do and by what we don’t do. People will see that there is something different about us. This is how we become light in a dark world. Do you look different to those who are not Christians? Does your uniqueness as a Christian stand out from the rest of the world? As believers, we are not to look like the world, because the changes that Jesus has brought into our hearts should be reflected externally.
Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world.” The JB Phillips translation says “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould.” What this means is that instead of the world shaping us in its image, we should be reflecting the work of Christ.
Peter also talked differently from everybody else. He had a Galilean accent, which was different to the way people spoke in Judea. His accent gave him away, because when Peter talked, there was no doubt where he was from. A true follower of Jesus talks differently to everybody else, and when we speak, there should be no doubt about who we belong to. We don’t use the language of the world, and I’m not only talking about not swearing, but we don’t gossip. We don’t attack and destroy people with our words.
How do you use your words? Ephesians 4:29 says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Does the language we speak build up or tear down? Do we speak the truth in love? Do we share the good news of Jesus Christ with those who desperately need to hear it? All that we say should be influenced by the presence of Jesus in our lives. It’s very easy for us to do and say the right things in Church. This is where we speak Christianese, but we should be speaking it out there too. Not fancy theological words, but grace-filled words. As Colossians 4:6 tells us, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
Where are you today in your life as a Christ follower? The story of Peter’s denial is far more than a mere historical record. It is an opportunity for us to examine our own life of faith. In which ways are we guilty of denying Jesus in our everyday lives? Are we closet Christians? Do we go around wearing the world’s camouflage, hoping we won’t be noticed?
You’re here today, and that’s a good thing. I’m delighted to see you this morning, but in which ways are we no more than mere Sunday morning Christians? Are we really any different from the rest of the world, and have we really been transformed into the people Jesus saved us to become?
Are you really the Christian disciple you want to be today? I was speaking to someone earlier this week and he said that he knows he has to move from here to there for Jesus, and that sums up perfectly the heart’s desire of every Christian. Of course we’re not perfect, and there is always room for improvement in our Christian lives. The good news is that God also wants us to improve. Not only that – by His Spirit He gives us the means to move from here to there.
In Matthew 8, Mark 1 and Luke 5 we find the story of a leper seeking God’s healing. He pleads with Jesus and says, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus’ reply to him is, “I am willing.” If you want God to make you bolder for Him and more faithful to Him, you will find a God that is not only able, but willing to do it. Things can be different, and just like Peter, you can be restored today.
One of the most piercing and heart-rending verses in the Bible is Luke 22:61. It comes immediately after Peter’s third denial. “The Lord turned at looked straight at Peter.” Amidst all the chaos, the shouting, the pushing and shoving as Jesus was being led away, for Peter time froze. In a moment I’m sure He never forgot, Jesus turned around and looked at him with His piercing eyes. The look Jesus gave Peter is mistakenly interpreted to be an accusing look. I believe that as Jesus looked at poor Peter, it was a look filled with love and compassion. This was a devastating moment for Peter. Amongst all the noise and confusion, Jesus looked out to Peter. Even when Peter was denying Him, He didn't turn away from Peter. Jesus turned to him.
Have you denied Jesus and turned away from Him? Of course you have – every day you have. That’s what sin does. But I have good news for you: Jesus hasn’t turned away from you. If you belong to Him, He’s still got His eyes on you. Jesus loves you and He will never deny His love for you.
In John 21 we read how this story turned full circle. Three times Peter had denied Jesus. Now, three times Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him. This time Peter couldn’t deny it. He really loved Jesus, and Jesus forgave and restored him. He gave Peter the opportunity to recommit himself with these words: “Follow me.” And he did. It’s hard to believe that the Peter we read about from the book of Acts to the end of the Bible is the same man who couldn’t bring himself to say that he was a follower of Jesus. But it was.
The transforming power of God changed Peter into a bold and fearless disciple, and a brave warrior for Christ. And He can do the same for you. He is willing if you are. Do you really love Jesus? Does He really mean everything to you? Do you want the bold kind of faith that will leave the world in no doubt that you have been with Jesus? He makes the same call to you that He made to Peter: “Follow Me.” It is now up to you to decide how you will respond to Him.
Once more I have found myself drawn to Jesus’ prayer in John 17. Just before He went to face the cross He prayed these words: “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.”
You are not alone on this journey of faith. If you want boldness, all you have to do is ask Him. It really is that simple.
Homegroup Study Notes
Read Luke 22:54-62
It is very easy for us to be critical of Peter, but his weak faith is merely a reflection of our own struggles to stand up for the cause of Jesus.
How can you relate to Peter in these verses?
We tend to focus on the negatives of Peter’s denials of Jesus in this passage, but as we saw on Sunday, there are a number of positive messages here. Discuss some of these. What others can you think of?
Most people assume that when Jesus looked at Peter in verse 61 He glared angrily at Peter for blatantly lying about who he was.
This however, would have been completely out of character for Jesus, especially as He was about to go to the cross for our sin.
What kind of a look do you think Jesus gave Peter?
What kind of a ‘look’ do you believe God gives you when you fail Him?
Within the confines of the Church it is easy to be open about our faith, but the real challenge is to take our faith into the world.
What are some of the challenges you face as a Christian among your non-believing friends and family?
Close by praying for each other.
Ask the Lord to give you a new boldness as you make a stand for Jesus.