Peter’s Heart Was In The Right Place
His Head Was In Another
In my last post, I made the point that Peter’s failure, the reason he denied Jesus, was ideological. He was invested in ideas that ran contrary to God’s plan.
Failure was guaranteed. The only plan that works is God’s plan. Changing the details is like rewriting the Bible.
People, Christian or not, don’t see it that way. A little modification here or there can’t be that bad. That’s what Peter thought but he might have something very different to say if he were here today.
Fortunately, Peter did recover. It wasn’t easy. He had to work through a bit of guilt and despondency but he got through it. The question is did Peter learn his lesson?
Yes, but it took a while.
What Jesus Planned
Jesus had a plan in eternity past, before the creation of the world. He knew exactly what would happen and what He would do and He did it.
He took on human form, He grew and developed in the way humans develop – except without sin, and died for the sins of the world.
That wasn’t what Peter wanted but it was the plan. Jesus made the plan clear to the disciples but there’s no evidence the penny dropped until after He rose from the grave.
Allusions To The Cross
Early in Jesus’ public ministry, Jesus began making allusions to His death, burial, and resurrection.
- After cleansing the Temple, Jesus said, destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up. (John 2:19)
He was talking about His body and the resurrection but no one caught on till after he rose from the dead.
- He referred to being life up in the same way Moses lift of the serpant in the wilderness. (John 3:14)
- He used Jonah’s experience to represent His burial and resurrection. (Matthew 12:39-40)
Instead of getting it, they were confused. It went right over their heads.
The First Clear Description Of His Demise
Jesus didn’t stop with allusions. Matthew records three separate times when Jesus described how His ministry would end. The first record is in Matthew 16 immediately after Peter’s confession that Jesus was the Messiah.
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests, and the teachers of the law and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. (Matt. 16:21)
It’s interesting that Jesus waited till the disciples clearly understood He was the Messiah before revealing this information. Even then, however, they still missed the ultimate meaning.
He wasn’t just another innocent being executed for getting caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was the perfectly sinless Saviour offering Himself for the sins of the world.
That’s a distinction the disciples didn’t grasp. They saw Jesus as innocent of the accusations made against Him, and He was, but they failed to see Him as absolutely free of all sins and flaws and that being perfect made Him the only acceptable offering for the sins of the world.
They understood He was the Messiah but they still viewed Him from a human perspective and Peter’s response to this first reveal demonstrates the blind spot.
Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. ‘Never, Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to you!’ (Matt. 16:22)
Obviously, Peter didn’t get it and Jesus’ response lets him, and us, know in very clear terms how seriously he misstepped.
Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.’ (Matt. 16:23)
I talked about the Satanic thing in my last post so I won’t dwell on it here but suffice it to say that changing God’s plan is like supping with the Devil.
Matthew records two additional occasions when Jesus mentioned his eventual death, burial, and resurrection (Matthew 17:22-23 and 20:17-19).
The Obedience Test
There’s only one Master. That Master is Jesus. His being Master means all the rest of us are servants.
That doesn’t mean we don’t have brains and aren’t allowed to think. Serving requires all your brainpower but with limitations. We receive plans, we don’t create them, and once received, our part is to find a way to execute.
This was a test and a learning experience. They were told what to expect, they refused, and then made things worse.
The problem was acceptance. They weren’t asked to kill Jesus, but they were expected to accept the fact and endure it. Jesus said He would die and rise from the dead and Peter, in particular, couldn’t accept that.
John apparently did. He was also in the palace when Jesus was tried but there is no record of angst or denial on his part.
Here’s the question. How many times does Jesus need to tell us a truth before we accept it fully?
In case you’re wondering, once is the answer.
Fortunately, failure doesn’t mean the end. They recovered and were then given new instructions.
What Comes Next
Jesus rose from the dead on Passover Sunday and remained on earth for forty days.
During that period He met with the disciples several times. On at least four of those occasions, He gave them very clear instructions for life after the resurrection.
On Resurrection Sunday, the very first meeting with the disciples after rising from the dead, on the very day He rose, He gave the following instructions:
Peace be unto you. As my Father hath sent me, even so, send I you. . . Whose soever sins you remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins you retain, they are retained. (John 20:21 & 23)
The message is clear. He was sent. We are sent. More importantly, if we go, people will get saved.
The second recorded meeting occurred eight days after the resurrection. The meeting is recorded in John 20:26 and in Mark 16:14-15. In Mark passage His instructions simple and clear:
Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature. (Mark 16:15)
There’s no mistaking what He meant or what He expects.
Later, on the mountain in Galilee where He had taught the disciples often and even where He had appointed the Apostles, He said the following:
Go you, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:19)
The words “go you, therefore,” literally translated would be “having gone.” In other words, you are already in the process of going so while you’re on the way be sure you make disciples as you go.
It’s worded a little differently but the message is essentially the same. Make disciples by preaching the Gospel.
The third time He repeated these instructions was on the day He ascended into heaven. His instructions are again quite clear:
But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. Acts 1:8)
That’s four separate meetings in which Jesus clearly shares His plan and expectations for the future. At each meeting, Jesus plainly tells us to go and share the Gospel.
Again, how many times do we need to hear it before we obey? There are many things we can do with our lives. Disobedience shouldn’t be one of them.
Did Peter Learn The Lesson Of Obedience
Yes, but only in a delayed response.
- Thousands were saved on the Day of Pentecost and in the weeks immediately afterward.
- None of the disciples (old and new) left Jerusalem willingly. Many of them, possibly thousands were from other countries. Leaving would have been natural but they left only when persecution broke out approximately a year following the Day of Pentecost.
- The Apostles only went to Samaria when revival broke out in response to Philip’s preaching. Philip was one of the first Deacons (Acts 6) and was the first to preach the Gospel in Samaria. The Apostles went to Samaria but didn’t stay long. As far as we know the Apostles never returned to Samaria again.
- It was eight yeast after Pentecost before Peter made his way to Caesarea, Gentile territory, and experienced revival but only after being coaxed with signs, visions, and angelic messages directly from God. Peter was afterward rebuked by Jerusalem’s disciples for visiting in the house of a Gentile. (Acts 9-10)
- Peter later vacillated. He ate with Gentiles when no Jews were present but separated from them when Jews were around (Galatians 2:11-13).
Two Lessons For Us
One, forget your plan. Find out what God says and do that. No more. No less.
It’s impossible to improve on God’s plan and you set yourself up for the worst kind of failure when you try.
Second, and most important, keep the main thing the main thing. Win souls, share the Gospel with friends and neighbors and pray for the salvation of souls. Peter would have served Jesus better if he had prayed for those who arrested and abused Jesus. That’s what Jesus did. We should follow His example.