On a dark spring night in Jerusalem, it seemed everyone was against Jesus Christ. The religious system had long been opposed to and jealous of His burgeoning ministry. The mock trial designed to get rid of Jesus was only going through the technical motions to achieve their end. And Peter, Jesus' closest friend, was in a downward process of disassociating himself from Him. But in the midst of the darkest night, the sunrise of God's grace was beginning to shine!
"But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name" John 20:31.
Believe:879 is an epic journey through the book of John led by Pastor Skip Heitzig of Calvary of Albuquerque. As we explore each of the 879 verses of this gospel, we'll grow in grace and in our knowledge of Jesus Christ. From His pre-incarnate existence, to His public ministry, through His death and His resurrection we'll traverse familiar territory and embark on new adventures of faith.
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Stuff to Talk About:
Publications referenced: Worst Night of My Life, by Eddy Arnold
Figures referenced: Les Flynn
Cross references: Psalm 1:1; Matthew 5:21; Matthew 6:5; Matthew 16:15-18; Matthew 26:35; Matthew 26:73; Matthew 26:75; Mark 14; Luke 22:31-32; John 1:4-5; John 7:19; John 7:25; John 8:12; John 8:37; John 8:40; vJohn 13:30; John 18:3; John 18:8; John 21; Galatians 3:28; Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 2:18-23
Topic: Trials of Jesus
Keywords: trial, deny, Peter, court, courtroom
"It was the worst night of my life." That's what a soccer player said when he lost the game. I saw it on a news article online this week. He lost the game. He thought they were going to win. He lost the game and he said, "It was the worst night of my life." "It was the worst night of my life," said a teenage girl when she felt her friends were turning against her and she posted that on her Facebook page, worst night of my life. "It was the worst night of my life," said a man speaking about the previous evening, the New Year's Eve party that he was not invited to and felt that his friends on purpose didn't invite him, worst night of my life. "It was the worst night of my life," said a surfer from Australia who stayed at the hotel that didn't quite meet his expectations. Okay, there was no hot water, there were cockroaches, that's pretty bad. But, the worst night of my life?
Years ago, there was a song written called, "The Worst Night of my Life," by Eddy Arnold, speaking about him breaking up with his girlfriend. He said, "Last night was the worst night I've been through because last night was the first night without you. I felt so left alone. I tried to call but you weren't home. Last night was the worst night of my life." Now, I bet you've had some pretty bad nights. I bet you can think back to some days and times and nights that were pretty nearly.
One old gentleman writes after a daunting surgery that he had. "I've sure gotten old. I've had two bypass surgeries, a hip replacement, new knees, both of them. I fought prostate cancer and diabetes. I'm half blind. I can't hear anything quieter than a jet engine. I take 40 different medications that make me dizzy, winded, and subject to blackouts. I have bouts of dementia. I have poor circulation. I hardly feel my hands and feet anymore. I can't remember if I'm 89 or 98. I've lost all my friends, but thank God, I still have my driver's license."
That's why you don't want to text when you drive. There are people like that out there. Now, don't you think if anyone had the right to say, "This is the worst night of my life," it would be Jesus, who is betrayed by a friend, who is arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane while he is praying, who is taken before several different trials pronounced guilty when he was totally innocent and sentenced to die of criminal's death. That's a bad night. And then we think about these disciples who were his friends and they've been with him for three and a half years talk about being at a very low moment and especially Peter. Peter could say, "Excuse me. This is the worst night of my life." He said that he would not deny Jesus. In fact, he will deny him three times in this night and the Bible says, "Peter went out and he wept bitterly." It was a bad night. But what has been considered Jesus worst night would actually become our best night. And what was Peter's worst night would be eclipsed by his best days yet ahead.
Now, the entire scene in John Chapter 18 does take place at nighttime and John will draw our attention to that over and over again, it's nighttime. In Chapter 13, when they're in the upper room and Judas leaves, John writes and it was night. In Chapter 18:3, those who come to arrest Jesus, come to the garden and they carry torches with them because it's dark outside, it's night. And there were something we notice as we go through John's gospel. John liked to explore contrast and to use them in metaphorical terms, something from the physical world to speak to something in the spiritual world, so he talks about life and death. He speaks about light and darkness. He records that it was Jesus who said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but have the light of life." It was John who records about Jesus in Chapter 1, the very beginning verses, the prologue. He says, "In him was life and his life was the light of man, and the light shined in the darkness and the darkness could not extinguish it."
So, one of the themes of John is to show us that we as believers never have to be afraid of the dark, that the darkness of life morally, spiritually, ultimately can never outshine or overshadow the light of Christ. I read about a little boy who was afraid of the dark. I mean literally, he didn't want to go outside when it was dark and his mom asked him to go to the back porch and get the broom. He goes, "Mommy, it's dark outside." She says, "Honey, don't worry it's just right outside the door." "But it's dark outside." "Honey, just go and get the broom. We've talked about this before. I told you, you never have to be afraid of the dark. Jesus is always with you." So, the little kid wasn't damn. He just opened the door crack and he said, "Hey Jesus, if you're out there, would you hand me the broom?" You and I never have to be afraid of the darkest times of life because they might segue into the greatest moment of our life. And I think we see that here even in the story.
Now, what you're going to look at and we're beginning in verse 12 of chapter 18 today in the Gospel of John is two scenes, two different scenes but they're happening simultaneously. They're happening one on top of the other. A picture, two different cameras and two different locations and you're watching the movie and so the camera shows this scene and then it pans quickly to another scene, but it's happening overlapping the other. They're happening in exactly the same time. One is a courtroom scene; the second is a courtyard scene. There are three realities. That's what I want you to look at with me today. Three realities that show us, why this night was the darkest night for Jesus. Reason number one is because religion despised him.
Verse 12, "Then the detachment of troops." If you were with us a few weeks ago, you know that the word "detachment" means a cohort. A Roman cohort is between 200 and 600 armed men. So, we have the whole SWAT team or all of the SWAT teams gathered together to arrest Jesus, that's the detachment. "The detachment of troops and the captain and the officers of the Jews," these are the Jewish temple police, "arrested Jesus and bound him and they lead him away to Annas first for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was the high priest that year." Now, it was Caiaphas who advised the Jews that it was expedient that one man should die for the people.
It's pretty well established that the religious establishment and authorities had long hated Jesus. He upset their status quo. They had always been suspicious of him but that suspicion grew into outright hatred, so that twice in the Gospel of John, Jesus tells them, "You're trying to kill me." On one occasion he says, "You guys speak about Moses law, Moses law, Moses law. You don't keep Moses law because if you did, you wouldn't try to kill me but you are trying to kill me." So, he uncovered their motives. And it was obviously well-known because the crowds in Jerusalem even said, "Hey, isn't that the guy they're trying to kill?" So they have always hated Jesus, but Chapter 11 is the tipping point. Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead and when that happens, and so many people start believing in Christ wholeheartedly. That becomes the tipping point where they say, "We've got to get rid of this guy. We've got to crucify him. We have to kill him." So, religion have long hated Jesus.
Okay. Now, Jesus gets arrested. And notice who is brought before first, a guy by the name of whom? Annas, not Caiaphas, he's the high priest, but Annas. Now, let me explain what's going on. Annas was considered the religious authority in the land and here's why. He had one time been the high priest but he's no longer the high priest. This is sort of weird because a high priest was a high priest for life according to the Old Testament. You're at the lineage of Aaron. Once you're the high priest, you're the high priest until you die. But the Jews aren't in charged. Who's in charge? The Romans were in charged. So, The Romans kick him out, depose Annas, and put his son-in-law, Caiaphas.
So, Annas is the high priest form 6 A.D. to 15 A.D. and he is placed there by a Roman authority, a guy by the name of Quirinius, the governor of Syria. You remember that name from the Christmas story. He gets deposed by Valerius Gratus. Caiaphas, his son-in-law gets put on the throne, but for all intense and purposes, the real authority, not the puppet, the real authority to the Jews is a guy by the name of Annas, who questions Jesus. He's very influential. Something else you need to know. Annas was the guy who's making all the money form the temple sacrifices. Remember the money changers in the temple? They would say, "I'm sorry. You can't give us your money. We have to exchange it for the temple." Well, there was a profit that was added to that, a little margin that was given to Annas. Then there were animals sold and bought in the temple, right? You bring your lamb and the priest will go, "I'm sorry. That lamb really is ugly. We can't sacrifice it, but you can buy our lamb for only like two million bucks". You get the point, an exorbitant price.
All of the profits were pocketed by Annas. So, Jesus who twice cleans the temple by overthrowing the money changers and driving out the sellers, that hit Annas right where it hurt his pocketbook. So, you can bet your life that Annas once have a private talk with Jesus, that's what this is all about. Religion hated Jesus. Now, I'm not a religious person, and that this actually astonishes people when they see me in public, "Oh, you're that preacher over that church, aren't you? You're religious person." I said, "I am not religious, you just insulted me, I am not religious." "Oh, I thought you were religious." "No," because religion is all about a system. Christianity is all about a relationship. It's not about the rituals, it's not about the system, it's about the relationship one has with Christ. I never found Jesus in religion. I grew up religious. And they talked about Jesus and they even sang some songs about Jesus and sort of religiously tip that to Jesus, but there's the difference between the ritual and the reality that I experienced. When I'm 18 years of age, I was converted and authentically gave my life in sincerity and reality to Jesus Christ. It made all the difference.
And I also remember when I was 18 years of age and I was converted that people in my church that I had grown up with took note of this and they asked me to appear before the leadership council. The leadership council wanted an explanation from me why so many young people were leaving their church and what their church needed. Can you imagine them asking an 18 year old, "What do you think our church needs?" Well, keep in mind, I'm 18 years old. I don't have a lot of tact at that age. So I said, "This church needs Jesus Christ, crucified, and risen from the dead and personally living in your hearts." It didn't go over as well as I thought it would. My dad was in the crowd that day. It really didn't go over at home as well as I thought it would. But I've discovered Jesus Christ is not religious and doesn't really care a whole lot for religion.
There's this huge divide between the religion that despised Jesus that we're reading about throughout this gospel and God who sent his son Jesus. Now, why is there such a divide and what is the difference? Well number one, I've discovered that religion is all about outward things. Jesus is all about inward things. He said in the sermon on the mount, "You've heard that it was said by those of old, you shall not murder." That's outward. But I say to you, if you hate your brother, you're guilty. That's inward. Religion is all about the show, the parade, the façade. Look at me, I'm religious, don't you think I'm really cool, I'm really spiritual, I'm really religious? Jesus said, "Don't be like the Hippocrates who love to pray standing up in the synagogue and on the street corner." Here's the catch phrase, that they can be seen by man. It's all about being seen. It's all about the outward.
Number two, religion is typically about the negatives. Jesus is all about freedom in the positives. I remember growing up, I heard this a lot. "You can't do that. You can't do that either. You definitely don't. Don't ever try that. Thou shalt not, thou shalt not, thou shalt not." A lot of that is religious. Then I came to Christ and here's Jesus saying, "Do this and I'll help you. Do that and I'll help you." And he changed me. It wasn't about a righteousness of negatives. See a lot of people, it's all about negatives. Let me tell you how religious I am. I don't do this, I don't do that, I don't smoke, I don't chew, I don't go with girls that do.
Okay, cool. But, what do you do? What do you do? What's on the positive side of that? Here's a third reason that division between Jesus and religion. Religion sets up barriers that you have to jump over to get to God. Jesus is all about knocking barriers down and making it possible for anyone to get to God. It's a huge difference.
So, if you were to visit the temple in Jerusalem 2000 years ago, there would be courts, there was a Court of the Gentiles. You and I could go there. I'm not Jewish so I couldn't go any further than the borderline of the Court of the Gentiles. There was another court for Jewish women. They could go up to a certain point but they couldn't go any further. Then another court for Jewish man, then another court for priest, there was division. If this were synagogue in ancient times, there'd be men on one side of the room and women in the other side of the room and non Jewish seekers in the back foyer are not allowed to get in the room. Then comes Jesus and Paul says, "There's neither male nor female, cevian, bond, or free. We're all one in Christ." So, there's this big divide between religion that hated Jesus and Jesus himself. See, Christ is the great bulldozer. He levels the plain field. He says, "Basically, everyone is a sinner so that everyone can be forgiven," level ground at the foot of the cross.
I read a statement by Karl Marx years ago and it really struck me. And as I pondered it, I thought, I agree with this and I have to say I still agree with it. Do you agree with Karl Marx? Listen to what he said, "Religion is the opiate of the masses." It's the great drug that controls people and mass. It's the opiate of the masses. I have to say, I totally agree with that. But Jesus is the savior of the world and that's different than the religion that is the opiate of the masses. So, it was a dark night for Jesus. Religion hated him and they have been planning this attack and here's the fruition of it. Second thing, I want you to know is that his enemies on this night, his enemies defied him.
Now, look at the second scene in verse 19. The high priest then asked Jesus about his disciples and his doctrine. That sounds pretty fair, right? "Hey, tell me Jesus, how many people you've got following you and what are they like and where are they and what's your statement of faith, what do you guys believe in, what are you into?" Notice Jesus' answer, he answered them, "I spoke openly to the world. I've always taught in synagogues and in the temple where the Jews always meet. And in secret, I have said nothing. Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me and what I said to them. Indeed, they know what I said." And when he had said these things, one of the officers who stood by struck Jesus with a palm of his hand, to hit somebody, to slap him with an open hand which is what this is, a slap across the cheek was the highest public insult. He slapped him across the face with a palm of the hand saying, "Do you answer the high priest like that?" Jesus answered, "If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil but if well, why do you strike me?" Then Annas sent him down to Caiaphas, the high priest.
Let me just say, Jesus never had any hope that he was ever going to have a fair trial. He knew what was happening. This is a kangaroo court. I'll explain but first of all, let me just help frame this for you a little bit. When Jesus was brought before the authorities for a trial, he didn't go through one trial. He didn't go through two trials. He went through a total of six separate trials before he was condemned and sentenced. If you were to take Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and parallel them all out, you have six totally different trials. Let me explain.
Trial number one, the one you and I are reading about. He comes before Annas, the ex-high priest who wills all the religious authority in the land. Trial number two is verse 24, Annas shifts him off to Caiaphas, his son-in-law because he is the real high priest. Trial number three is recorded in the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 22 when early the next morning, it's still nighttime, the dawn hasn't broken yet, all of the son of Hadrian(ph), the 70 ruling elders gathered together and condemned Jesus to die. That's the third trial.
But we have a problem. The first three trials are religious trials. The Jews have no authority in their land over crimes for capital punishment which is what they want. They want to kill Jesus. They can't do that. The Romans are in charged. So, they have to bring it into a secular court, brings us to trial number four. Early in the morning, Jesus is taken to Pontius Pilate. Pontius Pilate is a whistle. He doesn't want to have anything to do with making a choice and so he decides that since Jesus is Galilean and Herod Agrippa is the Galilean magistrate that he will ship him off to Herod Agrippa, which he does. Now, we're at trial number five already. Herod Agrippa is happy to see Jesus. He has a lot of questions he wants to ask him. But Jesus does this to him. He says, "Nothing, the entire trial." That frustrates Herod who sends Jesus back to Pontius Pilate. Pontius Pilate knows Jesus he is innocent, but gives into the wishes of the Jewish Sanhedrin and he's shipped off to be crucified. Those are the six trials.
Now, back to Verse 20. This is still at trial number one. Annas peppers him with questions about what He believes and who his disciples are. Jesus gives him a pretty sharp answer, and we wonder about that. Why did Jesus answer the high priest like He did in Verse 20? "Go asked those who heard me. I didn't do anything in secret." Here's why. Jesus knew that the trial He was facing was totally illegal. According to Jewish law, you never address the accused in court at first. First thing you do is ask witnesses. So, here's Jesus saying, "So, bring witnesses. There are plenty of witnesses, they've seen me, they've heard me. Go call for witnesses." But they don't do that. They speak to the accused first of all.
Now, I brought with me a little bit of a list. I just want to share with you. I'm not going go share all 18, but this is a little section from what's called the Mishnah. You've heard of the Mishnah. These are Jewish writings about how to live life and there's a little section in the Mishnah that talks about rules you follow in a court case. Now, I'm just going to read a few of the rules because you're going to soon see that every single rule they wrote, they broke.
Rule number one according to the Mishnah. This is for the Jewish leaders whenever they have a court case. Rule number one, no trials were to occur during the night hours. When did this take place? At night. Rule number two, trials were not to occur on the eve of the Sabbath or during festivals. Is there a festival going on right now? Yes, it's called Passover, the biggest festival. They broke that rule. Rule number three, all trials were to be public. That is in the temple courts and what's called the Hall of Judgment in the temple precincts. Secret trials are strictly forbidden. What's going on here? Secret trials before Annas, the ex-high priest, the religious authority, and before Caiaphas, Roman government hadn't even been brought in yet. Then before the entire Sanhedrin the next day, they sort of rubber stamped their verdict. Rule number six says, "The accused person can't testify against himself." This is to prohibit self-incrimination. This is the precursor to our Fifth Amendment. But it requires witnesses to be brought in first. What happened this night? The Sanhedrin interrogates Jesus personally and when He does speak, they slapped Him across the face. They broke their own rule. Rule number 12 says, "The high priest is not to participate in questioning the accused." Did they break that rule? All night long with two high priests. And finally rule 18, "Sentencing in a capital case is not to occur until the following day". There is to be a 24-hour period from the first meeting to the final verdict. Here's why, so that feelings of mercy could arise. They've met secretly. They did it at night. They did it during the festival. And then to rubber stamp their decision as I mentioned, they've got together with the whole Sanhedrin the next day. So every single rule is being broken that night. The enemies defy them.
Let me just apply this to our lives because I don't know if you're in a similar situation, but the most or one of the most frustrating situation that you could ever be in life is to be accused of something you didn't do. And so, people will talk behind your back and they'll make up little stories and they'll spin it.
And the stories actually get larger than the original story that was told and pretty soon there is a reputation going on all around town about you. It's not true. It's very frustrating. And so what do you do during those times? Well, if you try to chase down every story and every person that knows those things they have heard and they're spreading things that aren't true about you, that's a lot of work on your part. You have to find out who knows and how do I make it right. So, what do you do? Number one, you should realize, you are not alone. If there was ever a time you can relate to Jesus Christ, it's now in this situation. There's ever a time that Jesus could say to you, "I know exactly how you feel." It's in that situation. Remember what it says in Hebrew? "We don't have a high priest who can't be touched with a feeling of our infirmities. He was in all points tempted like we are, yet without sin. So, when you pray at those desperate times and you feel so isolated and so alone and in such agony, because you are so misunderstood and those things they're saying aren't true, know that God knows exactly what that is like and He is with you. You are never alone.
Second thing you should do, this is going to sound trite to some, it's because we don't practice it in reality, "To entrust it to God". Let me phrase it another way, "To actively trust God". See, it's one thing to passively trust God. "Oh yeah, I trust God, I love God, I trust God for everything." Do you? So, what are you doing in this situation? You freaked out about it or have you actively entrusted this to God? I want you to see this. So, turn with me to 1st Peter, Chapter 2. Keep a marker because we'll be coming back. 1st Peter 2:18, "Servants be submissive to your masters with all fear not only to the good and the gentle, but also to the harsh." So, you have an employer who's breathing down your neck, giving you a hassle, troubling you, saying things about you, what do you do? Well that's perfect verse for that. For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God, one endures grief, suffering wrongfully, for what credit is it, if you are being beaten for your faults, and you take it patiently. When you do good and suffer, but when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God for to this you were called because Christ also suffered for us leaving us an example that you should follow His steps.
So, you get the picture? If you misbehave and they say, "This guy is a rotten guy." So, what? "They're saying bad things about me," because they're true. "I'm suffering patiently," now, so what? But if you didn't do anything wrong and they're making up stories about you and you suffer for it and you just take it patiently, he says, "That's commendable before God." Now, here's why. We'll close with this, not close the sermon with this, close 1st Peter, "Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth." Here it is verse 23, "Who, when He was reviled did not revile in return. When He suffered, He did not threaten but committed himself to Him who judges righteously." That's active trust. That's actively entrusting my situation to God. Listen, God will make sure that justice gets done. It may not be in your timing. It may not be in your method, but God will make sure that justice gets done. You just make sure that you don't waste this time of suffering and agony that you learned from it. So, what do you? Restrain from having to be heard. Have you ever felt that way? "I've got the same ideas. I have a few things to say. I want to be heard." Refrain from needing to be heard to be vindicated, to speak the truth in love, in humility, not in pride, and submit it to God. And that is so hard to do, right? That's what Jesus did and he says, "That's the example we have." Unjustly accused, he entrusted it to God. He knew the truth. He can live with the truth. He can go to sleep at night because He knew the truth.
Now, go back to John, Chapter 18. "That night was a dark night. Religion despised Him as enemies defied Him and thirdly because His friend denied Him." Verse 15 brings us to Simon Peter. Simon Peter followed Jesus and so did another disciple.
Now, that disciple was known to the high priest and went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter stood at the door outside. Then the other disciple who was known to the high priest went out and spoke to her who kept the door and brought Peter in. Then the servant girl who kept the door said to Peter, "You're not also one of this man's disciples, are you?" He said, "I am not." Now, the servants and the officers who had made a fire of coal stood there for it was cold and they warmed themselves and Peter stood with them and warmed himself. Look at Verse 25. Now, Simon Peter stood and warmed himself. Therefore, they said to him, you are not also one of His disciples, are you?" He denied it and said, "I'm not." So, second denial. One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of him whose ear Peter cut off. Okay, so she kind of knows, right? Said, "Didn't I see you in the garden with Him? Like you're the guy with a bad aim, right? You're the fisherman with a sword?" Peter then denied again and immediately a rooster crawled.
Okay. First of all, Peter shouldn't have been there. You know why I've said that? Because Jesus, when they were arresting him, a few verse before that, they were arresting Jesus. He said, "Who do you want?" They said, "Jesus of Nazareth." He said, "I am Him." And they all fell backward and He said, "Who do you want?" They said, "Jesus of Nazareth." And he said, "I told you that I am He. Take me if you want me but let these go their way." That's what Jesus wanted Peter to do. "Go away Peter, go your way." Peter should've listened to Jesus. He shouldn't have been there. Second, Peter shouldn't have said anything. In Matthew's Gospel, it tells us that the servant girl figured that Peter was one of Jesus' disciples because of his Galilean accent. She said, "Your speech betrays you." Now, you've got to know that people in Jerusalem thought that the Galileans were hicks and no I'm not going to define what I consider a hick. But they were unsophisticated. They had that accent from Galileans like, "Oh, you're one of His disciples. I can tell by your accent." And Peter denied it and three times he was denied. Peter shouldn't have been there. Peter shouldn't have said anything. Great commentator, Liz Flynn said, "Peter talked when he should have been quiet. Peter slept when he should have been awake. Peter acted when he should've had sat still."
Now, I do have to say this however. I admire Peter's courage. I think that in heaven, there's going to be a long line of preachers having to apologize for Peter for some of the things we said. I'll probably be in that line. I've said some pretty some bad things about Peter in sermons that I preach because after all Peter was very courageous. At least, he's the only one named who stood up and stood around Jesus. At the same time, all four gospels, this is unique to the story. All four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John tell us that Peter denied Jesus. So, the Holy Spirit has lessons for us to learn. So, we want to learn those lessons. And the one lesson that we learn is that Peter took downward steps and you need to be aware of what they are. Downward step number one, they've got him to deny Jesus. Downward step number one, self-confidence. Peter was the guy who said, "I'll never leave you Lord. I'll never deny you. I'll even die for you." That's pretty confident in your self. Instead of saying, "Lord, I'm just trusting that you're going to keep me because Lord you can count on me. These other guys are flakes, but you can count on me," that's self-confidence. That's his first step down.
Now, years before this, Jesus had paid Peter a compliment and I think that there are certain people when you pay compliments to, it can be dangerous. It was Peter. When Jesus asked His disciples, "Who do men say that I am? And they said, "Well, there are a lot of things people say." "So, who do you say that I am?" Peter said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Remember that story? Remember what Jesus said to him? He said, "Blessed are you Simon, Son of Jonah. Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you. My father who is heaven has revealed this to you. You are Peter, a little stone and upon this massive rock, I'll build my church." I think Peter never forgot that. I would never forget that. And I think he sort of carried that. "I'm the blessed one. I'm the rock" And I think that's what the sword in the garden was all about. He stands with a sword, "I am rock man. I am the blessed one." He's like so confident that he's going to pull some off and that's probably why he is pushing his way following Jesus from afar, but they're at the courtyard. Self-confidence.
Downward step number two. He slacked off in devotion. He slept in the garden instead of praying in the garden. "Couldn't you pray with me in one hour?" "Yeah Lord, I will be right there." He did that. He slept. He slacked off. Step number one leaves step number two. If you are self-confident, you will slack off in your devotional life, guaranteed. Step one always leads to step two. Step number three for Peter. He tried to cover up his guilt with feverish service. He pulled out the sword, started swinging around. And when you feel guilty because well you haven't been what you should be, you haven't been praying and reading and living, what happens is you just start swinging swords around doing dumb stuff. "I need to do something." "No, you don't need to do anything until the Lord directs you." And step number four, the final step, he denies Christ. He doesn't admit. He won't even be identified with Jesus at all. "I don't know Him, I don't know Him, I don't know Him." Three times.
Now, there's a Psalm that comes to my mind and it fits perfectly with this, Psalm 1, "Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly or stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of the scornful." There's a picture of a man who is slowing down. He's first walking, then he's standing, then he's sitting. That was Peter. He was walking with the ungodly, when he walked in the courtyard. He was standing still with the sinners when he lingered over the fire and he thought, "Oh, this people are kind of like my people. I kind of like these people." And then he sat on the seat of the scornful. Two other gospels record that Peter sat down in the garden. And when they asked them the third time, "Aren't you His disciple?" He began to curse and to swear, that's the seat of the scornful. Those were Peter's downward steps and they're displayed in the Bible so that we can learn from them. There's something else and to me, this is the best part you were to learn from. "It's not over Peter. This is the worst night of your life Peter, but it's about to be eclipsed by the brightest day of your life."
You see this night highlights series of threes over and over again. Did you know that three times on this night -- again take all the gospel records three times in this night, Peter boasted. "You can count on me Lord. I'll die for you. I'll never leave you." Three times he did that. The Bible also records three times that night, he fell asleep in the garden. Check Mark 14 on your own sometime. Three times he fell asleep in the garden. Three times he boasted, three times he fell asleep. Also, three times that night, he denied Jesus. Now, if this were baseball, three strikes and you're what? You're out. "Peter, you're out." I'm so glad Christianity is not baseball because Jesus says, "Peter, you're not out. You have a whole new bat." Here's what I mean in John 21 and we'll read it if we ever get there, like two years from now. I'm just kidding. John 21, "Jesus appears personally after the resurrection to Peter and three times he says, "Peter, do you love me? Peter, do you love? Peter, do you love me?" Giving Peter an opportunity three times to confirm his own love.
Peter was the guy Jesus personally appeared to after the resurrection. Peter is the guy Jesus will commission to give the very first sermon to the first crowd when the first church is established on Pentecost. He's going to give that sermon. Peter is down, he's not out. Peter struck out, Jesus hands him a new bat and says, "It's a dark night, it's going to get really good however Peter." See, Jesus predicted that Peter would deny Him, right? So, was Jesus shocked when Peter denied Him? Did Jesus go, "I cannot believe you denied me." He just like, "Yup, well I said, I knew it. I'm not shocked by it. I don't love you any less." Jesus also predicted that Peter would be restored. He said, "Peter when you are recovered from this, I want you to strengthen your brethren." Jesus knew he would fail and knew he would recover. Jesus knows when you fail and He knows how to bring you back. Some of you may feel so far from God this morning. I just want you to know, God is not far from you. He's right there.
One person said, "You could sum up Peter's life in three stages, at the fire, under fire, and on fire." He was at the fire that night. He was under fire. They peppered him with questions. But the Holy Spirit will come upon him after Jesus gets risen from the dead, he'll be recommissioned, and that boy will be on fire, and he'll be unstoppable. He wants to do that with your life. It's not over. "Oh buddy, you don't know what I've done." It's not over. "But I made such a mess." Not over. Here's a new bat. Here's a new chance.Father in heaven, we thank you for your word and the examples of truth to come to us from your word. Some of us Lord have gone through dark nights, dark times. Sometimes it's not our fault. Sometimes things have been done, mistakes have been made, but rumors get spread about us that just aren't true and I'd pray that you'd help us to just entrust those things over to you. You judge righteously. You see all things. You'll make things right in your time. But then Lord for like Peter and probably most of us can relate not to the religious authorities and not to those in that courtroom case, but we can relate to Peter. Lord, thank you for this man. Thank you for his courage. Thank you for his honesty. Even thank you for the example of his failure and how gracious you were to bring him back to restore him and to make him a pillar in the church of Jerusalem. I pray for anyone today who is suffering in that kind of regard. You bring them back, not only to you, but to your service, in Jesus name, Amen.