The Face of Failure: Simon Peter Part 1
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
The Face of Failure: Simon Peter
Text: Mark 14:53-72
We have all heard the story of when Peter denied that he knew Jesus. It happened when Jesus was arrested and taken to the high priest to face charges of blasphemy against God. Peter followed Jesus “from afar.” He feared that Jesus was going to be put to death, and maybe they would come after him and his friends. He tries to make himself as inconspicuous as possible, but it doesn’t work. A little wisp of a maid caused him to deny his Lord.
Peter was ashamed to be known as a follower of Jesus at this time. Have you ever been in a similar position? May God forgive our cowardliness and weakness as He did Peter.
This is what Luke says about what happened, in the fourteenth chapter of his gospel. “And they led Jesus away to the high priest; and with him were assembled all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes. But Peter followed Him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. And he sat with the servants and warmed himself at the fire. Now the chief priests and all the council sought testimony against Jesus to put Him to death but found none. For many bore false witness against Him, but their testimonies did not agree. Then some rose up and bore false witness against Him, saying, "We heard Him say, 'I will destroy this temple made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.' “But not even then did their testimony agree. And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, saying, "Do You answer nothing? What is it these men testify against You?" But He kept silent and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked Him, saying to Him, "Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?" Jesus said, "I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven." Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, "What further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy! What do you think?" And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death. Then some began to spit on Him, and to blindfold Him, and to beat Him, and to say to Him, "Prophesy!" And the officers struck Him with the palms of their hands.
“Now as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant-girls of the high priest came. And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with Jesus of Nazareth.” But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you are saying.” And he went out on the porch, and a rooster crowed. And the servant girl saw him again, and began to say to those who stood by, “This is one of them.” But he denied it again. And a little later those who stood by said to Peter again, “Surely you are one of them; for you are a Galilean, and your speech shows it.” Then he began to curse and swear, “I do not know this Man of whom you speak!” A second time the rooster crowed. Then Peter called to mind the word that Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.” And when he thought about it, he wept." (Mark 14:53-72, NKJV)
Any of us could have done what Peter did. Failure as a disciple does not require exceptional weakness or extreme character flaws. This careful record of Peter’s failure is a good reminded of this fact.
Peter, a chief apostle, was present at the cross as a failure. Let’s review the facts we know about Peter so that we can put his failure in proper perspective. He joined the followers of Jesus very early after his brother, Andrew, brought him to Jesus. He gave up a fishing business to become a “fisher of men.” Jesus chose him to be one of the twelve apostles and later included him in the “inner circle.” He was present at the transfiguration of our Lord and was an “eyewitness” of most of His miracles. He had received personal instruction from the Lord on a daily basis for over three years before his failure.
Peter had not always been a failure. He was the one who gave the bold confession that so delighted Jesus’ heart. He declared, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of God.”
Peter had never been without words before. But now under the pressure of the circumstance, facing the scrutiny of the group in the courtyard of the high priest, he violently denied three times that he knew the Lord. Although he had loved the Lord, he denied Him.
Most of us who have been disciples for a while can identify with Peter. We know the pain of failure. Maybe you are like me; I have never denied Christ, but I have, at times, failed to defend Him and witness for Him. That’s been the story of my life, and I have been ashamed of my cowardliness, and I have felt sorrow because of my failures.
There are three things concerning failure that I believe we can find in this story of Peter’s failure. They are:
First: The shame of our failure.
Second: The sorrow over our failure.
Third: The comfort after our failure.
When we are finished with Peter today, I hope we will see that our failures don’t mean that we’re finished. Peter went on to serve Christ and he became a great preacher of God’s word.
God can do something with our lives too; He can take our failures and make something good from them. There are thousands of men and women who are living victorious lives, who were once defeated Christians.
Let’s begin with the shame of our failure.
Failure is always shameful, but it is especially shameful when it is found in someone as privileged as Peter. You would think that if anyone would come to Jesus’ defense it would be Peter. However, I believe that Peter made a mistake and that his failure represents a misjudged evil.
Let me explain. Peter had no intention of failing. His intentions were to be faithful to the Lord regardless of what might happen. Jesus told the disciples the night He was arrested on the Mount of Olives, “This very night you will all fall away on account of Me.”
Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” Then Jesus told him, “This very night before the rooster crows, you will disown Me three times.” But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown You.” Even before that, in the Upper Room, as the disciples observed the Passover, Peter expressed his intentions. He said, “Lord, I am ready to go to jail with you, and even to die with you." But Jesus told him that, “Satan has asked to have you, to sift you like wheat.” Peter had misjudged the power of the evil one.
Jesus tried to get Peter to rethink his spiritual motives, but Peter ignored the warning. He felt that his own strength was enough to defeat any power that might rise up against him.Wise men and women are careful to measure the strength of their enemy. Those who succeed in discipleship are always mindful that the enemy is like a “roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.” Peter learned this truth the hard way.
In Peter’s failure, we can also see that he had a mistaken concept of himself. Peter did not know himself as well as he thought. Peter could not do all that he thought he could do. He had not yet come to the place where he saw no good in the flesh at all. More of the “old Simon” was present in him than he wanted to admit. Peter’s words of dedication spoken in the Upper Room did not come from his faith in God, but rather from his faith in himself. They were the bold claims of a self-sufficient man.