“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” 33 Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” 34 Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.” (ESV) Luke 22:31-34
I don’t know how your last year was, or how your year is actually going, but I can tell you one thing is for sure, we’ve all experienced failure in some way. Some of us had greater failures than others, but we’ve all experienced the feeling of guilt, shame and remorse at some point. This is a human condition. It crosses every culture and time period of this planet. Every person has some sort of standard (whether religious or self-imposed) in his or her mind of what is good, right and true and has failed to meet it. No matter the standard or who institutes it, we fail and have an impossible time remaining consistent. How we deal with our failures and sin, how we cope is important. More importantly is how we think God responds and interacts with us in those failures. This is monumental. If you, as a human being, are going to fail regardless of the standard and who put it there, then how you think God looks at you when you fail is going to determine how you see Him.
GOD, THE PUNISHER
If we’re honest, most of us see God as this god who’s just waiting to destroy us. On the first day of school in seventh grade I was assigned a seat on the bus for getting into trouble. My dad said he would let it slide, but if I messed up again, it was over for me. I promised I’d be good and wouldn’t fail again. Then during the second day of school I got in trouble for not being quiet in class. My teacher said he was going to call my dad. I began to weep. After school I arrive home and saw my dad’s truck in the driveway. I realized I was dead. I appealed to my mom and hoping she’d have mercy for me, but she sent me outside to talk to my dad. I was terrified he was going to kill me. This is how we view God. If we’re going to fail our own standards, how much more are we going to fail when it comes to this eternal, perfect God? We’re going to fail Him all the time and in much more heinous and grievous ways. We picture Him waiting for us to fail so He can punish and destroy us. However, in Luke 22, Jesus shows us that God deals with our failures differently than we think. The way God treats us when we fail Him is monumental in our understanding of who He is. He is more gracious than we could imagine.
PETER, THE DENIER
Jesus and His disciples were eating the Passover Meal together, the most sacred meal for the Jewish people that celebrated how God rescued them from slavery in Egypt and brought them into the Promised Land. It was Jesus’ last meal with His disciples before His betrayal. As they were eating, Jesus was teaching them about life in the Kingdom. Suddenly He singled out Peter. It’s important to know that Peter was the most vocal and bold disciple. He was the leader of the rest of the twelve, always speaking first. With this kind of personality, he had some amazing and terrible moments. In Matthew 16, Jesus asked the disciples who they thought He was. Peter spoke up and said He was the Christ, Son of the Living God. He was the first person to make a public profession of faith in Jesus. Then just six verses later, this same bold disciple responded to Jesus saying the reason He came was to die, by telling Jesus He was ridiculous. Jesus called him Satan.
31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat,32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31-31 (ESV)
Jesus told Peter there was some serious satanic attack coming his way. Satan himself had asked God for permission to sift him like wheat. To some extent, God granted him permission to do this to Peter and the disciples. Jesus told Peter that he was going to fail. “When you have turned again,” meant, “When you’ve come to your senses and realize that you’ve failed, you must turn to your brothers. I’m going to pray for you.” Jesus told him this in front of the rest of the twelve disciples. This had to be difficult news to hear. Imagine if Jesus said you were going to deny Him in front of everyone you knew. Peter responded in the same way we probably would. He began to defend himself.
33 Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” Luke 22:33 (ESV)
Peter told Jesus he wouldn’t fail Him, he was more loyal and faithful than Jesus knew. He would follow Him even to death. We would do the same thing. Whenever we’re challenged, we begin to defend ourselves saying we belong to this church, know this theology, serve here, and do this.
34 Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.” Luke 22:34 (ESV)
Jesus explained He knew what He was talking about, Peter would deny the fact he even knew Him. It wasn’t going to be in some distant future, but within the next twelve hours. All the bravado and faith Peter claimed to have would be for nothing; he would deny Jesus three times. He wasn’t just going to talk bad about Him, but rather completely deny he even knew Him. It’s one thing to talk bad about somebody. We’ve all done that at some point, even about someone we love. Yet, how many of us have ever denied we’ve known somebody? That’s a whole other rejection. Jesus told Peter this then ended the conversation and moved on. Peter’s betrayal ensued. Just like every other word that Jesus spoke, His word came to fruition. A couple hours later, Peter denied him three times. As the High Priest was trying Jesus, Peter stayed faithful and was there with other onlookers who were curious to see what was going to happen to this guy named Jesus who claimed to be the Messiah. People begin to realize that Peter knew Jesus. They recognized his accent and claimed he was a friend of His. Twice, Peter denied it and told them they had the wrong guy.
60 But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” 62 And he went out and wept bitterly. Luke 22:60-62 (ESV)
As he was speaking the words of denial, a rooster crowed in the background. The rooster crowing didn’t set off Peter’s realization of what he’d done. He probably didn’t even hear it. But somehow, in the midst of the chaos of the moment, Peter and Jesus locked eyes; Peter’s fear and anger dissipated and he realized that all Jesus had said came true. He realized what he had done, was filled with shame and guilt and ran away weeping bitterly.
US, THE AVOIDERS
We’ve all been there. We’ve all had those moments where we’ve sinned in some way and have felt the shame, hating ourselves. Some of us respond the same way Peter did; prone to depression, responding by weeping and crying, not knowing what to do. Others of us respond differently. I had a buddy in college who would deal with his shame by working out as hard as he possibly could until he would almost pass out. It was his way of coping with his failure and guilt. I do similar things. I’ve noticed a pattern in my life where I cope with my overwhelming shame and remorse by cleaning. That way I don’t have to deal with it, I busy myself with cleaning instead. Most of you are no different. We’re too scared to admit how much of our lives and what we do in our busyness is to distract us from the guilt we feel. That’s why we constantly need input, entertainment and noise, something going into our minds, because the silence can be deafening. You stay quiet long enough and your insecurities become too loud to ignore. How much of our lives is busyness so that we don’t have to deal with the shame, guilt and insecurities we have?
If you don’t have Jesus, that’s all you have. All you can do is numb the pain and shame. You can’t deal with it; you must distract yourself by being busy. When you fail, all you can do is try to work harder. You do more and put more pressure on yourself to be different, only to find that you can’t. You can’t deal with it. If you try, you become overwhelmed with the shame. So much of our busyness is because we don’t want to be still and quiet, we want to avoid all those things that come flooding into our minds. We have no solution. No pill or therapy session can give you the solution you’re looking for. Those things only work if they’re pointers to something greater, to Jesus.
JESUS, THE SOLUTION
Jesus actually has a solution for you. Through Him you can look at your guilt and shame and be honest about it, but get rid of it at the same time. He has a compassion and love that we know nothing about.
31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat,32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31-32 (ESV)
Jesus knew Peter was going to reject Him. He had known for sometime. The man He’d given three years of His life to was going to deny Him. Jesus responded to such betrayal and cowardice by praying for him. In fact, He had already been praying for him. Peter’s failure was not an opportunity for Jesus to punish him. God didn’t want to put His thumb on Peter and destroy him. His failure was an opportunity for Jesus to show him how great His love for him was. Jesus is altogether different. He deals with the failures of His people, no matter how perverse or cowardly, by praying for us. He forgives us. Jesus didn’t just dismiss Peter’s treachery and faithlessness because there was something special about him or because Jesus had a special feeling toward him. Jesus was faithful and prayed for Peter because of what He told him earlier in the meal. Before Jesus told Peter about the attack that was coming, He was teaching them about the Passover, explaining how the meal was a foreshadowing of what He was about to do. He was going to rescue them from their enslavement to their guilt and sin. We can’t get away from the guilt we have towards God. Jesus came to rescue us from that.
19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. Luke 22:19-20 (ESV)
Jesus told them His body would be beaten, he would be mocked, tortured and degraded and all the wrath of God, due to them for their guilt, would be put on Him. He was the sinless One, the spotless Lamb, and God would destroy Him. On the cross, Jesus got what we deserved. It was that cross that enabled Jesus to look at Peter, and us, and say the following…
32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:32 (ESV)
Jesus said to any and all who trust in Him, “No matter your sin when you fail, I pray for you. I want to give grace to you. I’ve taken care of all your sin.”
A LIFETIME OF REPENTANCE
This year should not be about making up for past sins. Jesus has already made up for those past and those to come. Every accusation Satan hurls at you regarding your sins Jesus took on the cross. When I feel distant from God, I tend to run away. I try to read my Bible first and quit feeling guilty, and then I’ll come back to God. But Jesus was saying we don’t have to get ready first, He’s been praying for us, even before we’ve failed and run away. That’s the grace He offers to us! New Year resolutions are aimed at fixing areas where we’ve failed. There are areas in our lives where we keep failing God. Spiritual resolutions are about reading the Bible more or loving people more. I hope God gives you victory in these things, but there’s no way to escape failing in these areas. Do not think this year will be the year where you don’t sinanymore. That’s not possible. You’re going to fail and be deceived. Your rebellion is going to be overt or subtle depending on the day. Let this year be a year marked with repentance. Let us repent more often of our sin and confess it more to God and other people. God is not sitting up in heaven angry with you. He’s been praying for you, thinking about you, working everything, including your sin, to be for your good. Let us look to our Savior and say His grace makes repenting far easier. There is a reason Paul prays, “…and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God,” (Ephesians 3:19 ESV). It takes forever. You and I are going to spend forever marveling at the love He already has for us through the cross. When you begin to see God for who He is and repent to this God who is praying for you, you will see He’s more gracious and kind than you could ever imagine. All of a sudden it makes running away from Him more and more foolish. You will still do it, but the more you’re around Him as He truly is, the more you’ll want to stay near Him.