The Days & Nights of His Passion, vol. 2
BUT PETER FOLLOWED AT A DISTANCE
Intro: All of us fail in our pursuit of Christ. We are redeemed sinners, but we still sin. Who can say, “I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin”? (Prov 20:9) The Spirit is indeed willing, but our flesh is weak. “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” (1 Co 10:12) No one bats .1000 in the walk of faith. But it is how we respond to our failures that allows us to grow in grace and spiritual maturity.
Luke 22:54 Having arrested Him, they led Him and brought Him into the high priest’s house. But Peter followed at a distance.
Peter’s presence at the courtyard of the high priest lies somewhere between courage and cowardice.
“Peter followed at a distance” (v. 54) can be interpreted differently, depending on whether one accents “followed” or “at a distance.”
If “follow” determines the sense, then it is qualified praise of Peter, since the other apostles seem to have vanished.
If “at a distance” determines the sense—and Peter’s earlier boast, “I am ready to go with You to prison and to death” (v. 33) makes this sense immediately apparent—then we have an hesitant disciple with second thoughts, which will lead to betrayal.
Luke 22:55 Now when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them.
This disciple did not follow Jesus for long. He distanced himself from the Master until he had joined the crowd around a comfortable campfire.
He had quietly shifted identities. No longer a follower of Jesus, he became one of the crowd, curious to see what was about to happen and eager for a good time around the fire.
Luke 22:45 When He rose up from prayer, and had come to His disciples, He found them sleeping from sorrow.
Luke 22:46 Then He said to them, “Why do you sleep? Rise and pray, lest you enter into temptation.”
Peter has neglected his prayers, and there is no telling what sin people will commit once they stop praying to God to deliver them from evil.
At this point, Peter was trying to follow Christ in his own power. He thereby puts himself in the most vulnerable position anyone every gets: prayerless, but full of presumption.
Luke 22:56 And a certain servant girl, seeing him as he sat by the fire, looked intently at him and said, “This man was also with Him.”
Peter evidently hopes to remain inconspicuous. The rugged Galilean fisherman could not hide among the group at the Jerusalem court. He stood out from the crowd. A slave girl quickly noticed him.
She took a second and third look. Yes, she was sure of it. This man had been with Jesus.
Her piercing gaze defrocks his anonymity, and in a classic example of guilt by association, she exclaims, “This man was also with him.”
Peter has obviously not followed at sufficient distance!
He will later again be recognized as “being with him” (Acts 4:13), and then he confesses it boldly.
Without thinking, Peter went into a defensive mode. “No way! Not me! Woman, I am not acquainted with him.” Peter had denied Jesus, but what he had done did not sink in. He had successfully defended his right to enjoy the warmth of the campfire.
Luke 22:57 But he denied Him, saying, “Woman, I do not know Him.”
This wording, “I do not know Him” sounds much like the synagogue declarations when they dismissed someone for unfaithfulness to the law of Moses. “We no longer know you.” That it, “we have nothing to do with you from now on.”
There could hardly be a stronger disavowal of Jesus than when Peter said, “I do not know him.” It is all downhill from here.
Luke 12:8 “Also I say to you, whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God.
Luke 12:9 But he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God.”
Luke 22:58 And after a little while another saw him and said, “You also are of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not!”
Another passerby noticed Peter. Same results. “You are one of them, too.”
“Not so, man. Not me.” Peter again moved away from Jesus and joined the crowd more intimately. A defensive reaction changed his identity without him being aware of the immensity of what he had said and done.
Luke 22:59 Then after about an hour had passed, another confidently affirmed, saying, “Surely this fellow also was with Him, for he is a Galilean.”
Luke 22:60 But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are saying!” Immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed.
An hour passed, still the devil’s hour. Another face in the crowd spoke up, recognizing the Galilean accent: “This man was certainly with him, since he is also a Galilean.”
“I don’t know what you are talking about.” Peter was completely distant from Jesus. He had denied three times any knowledge of or relationship to the man. He now belonged to the crowd and to the devil. Satan had sifted him and found him lacking.
He has regressed from denying knowing Jesus, to denying he is one of the inner circle, to denying knowing anything at all about the subject.
What kind of denials?
(a) “with Him” (spontaneously caught off-guard)
(b) “of them” (a little easier being disoriented)
(c) “with Him and here is the evidence” (deliberately after thinking about it)
illus: How do we deny Christ? We deny Him when we talk about being involved at church, but not what it means to be saved. We deny Him when there is so little that is different about the way we live that people at work/school do not even know we are Christians. We deny Him when we are afraid about what others will think if we tell people what the Bible says about controversial issues like abortion, divorce, homosexuality, transgenderism, and the age of the earth. We deny Him when we speak/act in ways that are off-limits to believers because we want to have worldly fun and be accepted by the crowd.
Luke 22:61 And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had said to him, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.”
Luke 22:62 So Peter went out and wept bitterly.
Peter’s fall, though severe, lands in slivers of grace. “the Lord turned and looked at Peter.”
Peter fought off the scrutinizing gaze of a servant girl. But from the piercing look of Jesus, Peter had no defense.
Remember when Jesus rescued Peter with the grip of his hand? Now He did it with the glance of His eye.
Often in our humanness, when someone wounds us, we cry out, “I cannot even look at you right now.”
But our Lord is different. He is holy. He is full of grace and mercy. When His disciples fail Him, He says, “I can’t not look at you right now. It is what you need most. You need to see my eyes – they are filled with grace, not judgment.”
A rooster’s crow, not a human voice, made Peter realize what he had done. Jesus’ words stabbed their way into Peter’s memory: “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.”
Then comes this significant word: then Peter remembered. As he did, he was struck with remorse and went out and wept bitterly.
Luke 5:8 When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”
The word for “wept” always indicates intense emotion. It is often used for someone grieving a death in the family.
Grief and heartbreak and despair must have its way and its time to bring about proper repentance.
If Peter remembered Jesus’ rooster prophecy, what else might he have remembered? How about, “But I have prayed for you that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”
When you read 2 Peter, if you compare what he says with this incident, you will understand why he wrote the way he did.
From 2 Peter 1:9 on, over and over in one way or another, Peter says that he is writing to remind. Peter was the man who forgot. He did not want his readers to suffer the same grief and sorrow.
Luke places Judas’ kiss of betrayal next to Peter’s 3-fold denial of Jesus. He means for us to compare/contrast them.
Judas, in wickedness of heart, had betrayed the Lord, and when he realized the dreadfulness of his wicked act, his conscience overwhelmed him. He entered into the eternal night be suicide.
On the other hand, Peter denied the Lord through frailty and weakness, not because he did not love Christ or did not believe in Him.
He denied His master because he was too spiritually weak to resist the terrible temptation. Remember that he slept when he should have been praying?
And when he came to realize how he had denied his Lord, he was overwhelmed by deep sorrow that sparked genuine repentance in his heart. His grief over his sin brought life instead of death.
The best news coming out of this story is that if even Peter can be restored and go on to do meaningful ministry, then restoration is possible for others who fail Christ.
If you fall into serious sin, know that Jesus wants to do the same gracious work in your life that he did for Peter. Your sin need not drive you into hopeless despair, but to an opportunity for God to show His grace. The question is: What will you do after all the tears? J.C. Ryle said that “if we fall as Peter fell, we must repent as Peter repented., or else we shall never be saved.” But also understand that Jesus loves you as much as He ever loved Peter.
How can I apply this Bible text?
(1) Mind the distance between me and Jesus.
(2) Be prepared to testify about Christ especially in times of pressure.
Turn denials into confessions:
• “I am with Him” (salvation)
• “I am one of them” (association)
• “Here is the proof that I am with Him” (verification)
(3) Remember His grace in the midst of my failures.