“When once you have turned again…”
Luke 22:54-23:12 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
Having arrested Him, they led Him away and brought Him to the house of the high priest; but Peter was following at a distance. 55 After they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter was sitting among them. 56 And a servant-girl, seeing him as he sat in the firelight and looking intently at him, said, “This man was with Him too.” 57 But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know Him.” 58 A little later, another saw him and said, “You are one of them too!” But Peter said, “Man, I am not!” 59 After about an hour had passed, another man began to insist, saying, “Certainly this man also was with Him, for he is a Galilean too.” 60 But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” Immediately, while he was still speaking, a rooster crowed. 61 The Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had told him, “Before a rooster crows today, you will deny Me three times.” 62 And he went out and wept bitterly.
63 Now the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking Him and beating Him, 64 and they blindfolded Him and were asking Him, saying, “Prophesy, who is the one who hit You?” 65 And they were saying many other things against Him, blaspheming.
66 When it was day, the Council of elders of the people assembled, both chief priests and scribes, and they led Him away to their council chamber, saying, 67 “If You are the Christ, tell us.” But He said to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe; 68 and if I ask a question, you will not answer. 69 But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” 70 And they all said, “Are You the Son of God, then?” And He said to them, “Yes, I am.” 71 Then they said, “What further need do we have of testimony? For we have heard it ourselves from His own mouth.”
23 Then the whole body of them got up and brought Him before Pilate. 2 And they began to accuse Him, saying, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, and saying that He Himself is Christ, a King.” 3 So Pilate asked Him, saying, “Are You the King of the Jews?” And He answered him and said, “It is as you say.” 4 Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no guilt in this man.” 5 But they kept on insisting, saying, “He stirs up the people, teaching all over Judea, starting from Galilee even as far as this place.”
6 When Pilate heard it, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. 7 And when he learned that He belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent Him to Herod, who himself also was in Jerusalem at that time.
8 Now Herod was very glad when he saw Jesus; for he had wanted to see Him for a long time, because he had been hearing about Him and was hoping to see some sign performed by Him. 9 And he questioned Him at some length; but He answered him nothing. 10 And the chief priests and the scribes were standing there, accusing Him vehemently. 11 And Herod with his soldiers, after treating Him with contempt and mocking Him, dressed Him in a gorgeous robe and sent Him back to Pilate. 12 Now Herod and Pilate became friends with one another that very day; for before they had been enemies with each other.
In today’s text we read the account of Peter denying that he knew Jesus three times, just as Jesus said he would. After the third time the text says: But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” Immediately, while he was still speaking, a rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had told him, “Before a rooster crows today, you will deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly. In spite of his best intentions, Peter failed. What we need to recognize is that Peter and we ourselves, when we fail, do not surprise God and in truth, we don’t disappoint Him. God knows all things. In Psalm 139:1-4;16 the psalmist says: O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, And are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O Lord, You know it all… Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them. Jesus was not surprised by Peter’s denial. He Himself had predicted it and told Peter that it would happen.
We need to understand what this account really tells us. It’s not just that Peter failed just as we do. It’s not about Peter’s failure. Look at what else Jesus said to Peter: Luke 22:31-32 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Jesus didn’t condemn Peter. First He let Peter know that He had already prayed for him. Jesus prayed that Peter’s faith would not fail. It is faith that saves us, faith in the grace of Jesus finished work on the cross. Ephesians 2:8 says: For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. Jesus prayed for Peter, not about what he was going to do, but rather that he would trust in what Jesus did. In the same way, we too are judged not by our own works or actions, but by the finished work of the cross. When Jesus told Peter he would deny Him, He also said: “When once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Jesus spoke, not of Peter’s failure, but rather of his future, of the good he would do. In the same way, God doesn’t hold us to the things we have done wrong, but rather He speaks to the promise of our future. He says: For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)
Since our falling and failure does not surprise God and He does not hold us to it, but looks to our future and His plans and promise for us, does that mean that there is no longer any consequence to our sin? Does it mean that what we do does not matter at all because of God’s grace and Jesus finished work on the cross, where He died once for all sin? Romans 6:1-4 says: What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. The newness of life that we are to walk in is the promise of the future that God has for us, but that promise is only fully realized if we die to our sin. We cannot presume on God’s grace, continuing in our sin and expect that we will receive the good that He has planned for us. In today’s text it says of Peter: And he went out and wept bitterly. Peter did not take his failure lightly, but neither did he hold onto guilt and condemnation. Peter remembered the words Jesus spoke: “When once you have turned again…” Turning is the definition of repentance. It is turning from what you were doing and the way you were thinking to believe and do what God says. 1 John 1:5-10 says: This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. We are not to live in guilt and condemnation over our sin, but neither should we deny that we sin. We should not presume on God’s grace saying we have no sin. Like Peter our sin should cause us to weep bitterly. But also like Peter we should not hold to the guilt and condemnation over our sin. Instead, we should repent and hear the words of God about our future, His plans for our good and prosperity, as we walk with Him in newness of life, free from guilt and condemnation, free from sin.
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit thank You that because of the cross, You no longer see me according to my sins and failures, but You see me instead according to Your plans for me. I confess that without You, on my own I would continue to fall and fail. But because of Your grace and Your love, demonstrated in the cross of Christ, I can walk in newness of life. Thank You Jesus, that like Peter You have prayed for me. You have interceded for me and my faith will not fail. Amen.