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Peter will ever be recognized as one of the outstanding disciples of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. This does not mean, however, that Peter knew no frailties of the flesh.
We like to group the various disciples and followers of Christ into six divisions.
1. There were the five hundred to whom Jesus appeared at one time. This is the largest number mentioned as followers of Christ prior to Pentecost. We would call these the saved. There is no special mark to distinguish them either in character or deed. However, their names were written in the Lamb's Book of Life, and they were counted as brethren of the Lord.
2. There were the seventy. These are they whom the Lord sent out two by two. They were among the saved but they were more than the saved, they were servants. They moved under a special command from the Lord fulfilling a definite ministry.
3. There were the twelve. These were closer to the Lord than the seventy, even as the seventy were closer than the five hundred. We might call them the group of special privileges. They accompanied the Lord whithersoever He went. They heard His teachings, saw His miracles, and served Him as companions.
4. There were the three, Peter, James and John. We might call this group the inner circle. The Lord picked them out on several occasions from among the twelve and took them with Him. Notable among these examples are these: He took them into the death room in the home of Jairus. Afterward He took them with Him in the Mount of Transfiguration. Following that, He carried them into the inner reaches of Gethsemane, where He prayed in agony.
5. Even closer than the three, there was John, the beloved, who leaned upon Jesus' breast.
6. Even closer than John, there was, perhaps, Mary of Bethany, whose devotion to her Lord is most marked. It was she who anointed Him ahead of time unto His burial.
Peter, therefore, while perhaps not the closest in his fellowship to the Lord could certainly be counted among the three who were closest. This fact, however, does not lessen the other fact that the Apostle was carnal in many respects.
(1) One of the first marks of his carnality is discovered in Luke 9:33 where we read of how Peter said unto the Master, "Let us make three tabernacles; one for Thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias: not knowing what he said."
(2) Following this comes the second mark in Matthew 14:30 . There we read: "And when he (Peter) saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord save me."
(3) Outstanding, however, among the marks of Peter's weaknesses is the one recorded in Matthew 16:22 , Matthew 16:23 . Jesus had told the disciples how He must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes and be killed. Then it was that Peter took Him and began to rebuke Him, saying, "Be it far from Thee Lord: this shall not be unto Thee."
No sooner were the words out of Peter's mouth than Jesus said unto him, "Get thee behind Me, Satan: thou art an offence unto Me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men."
It was following this scene that Peter's real wanderings, which climaxed in his broken heart and bitter weeping, occurred. We have felt that it was at this point that Peter's backsliding began. That he loved God, we do not doubt. That he expressed the most wonderful faith in Christ, we know.
All of this shows how the most faithful and ardent followers of Christ must watch their step.
I. PETER'S FIRST OFFENSE (Mark 14:29 )
1. The Lord's definite statement. In Mark 14:27 we read: "And Jesus said unto them, All ye shall be offended, because of Me this night: for it is written, I will smite the Shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered."
The Lord Jesus knew all things, and He knew that not one of the twelve would remain faithful during the time of His greatest sorrow. He knew it because He knew men, and knew what was in them. He knew it because He knew that while the Spirit was willing, the flesh was weak. He knew it because He knew the terrific onslaught of the tempter, and how it would make the disciples afraid.
2. The Lord's statement was the Lord's warning. He told them what they would do, in order that they might seek God's aid and help to remain true. Not only did He tell them that they would offend and forsake Him, but He definitely told them of their return. Mark 14:28 reads: "But after that I am risen, I will go before you into Galilee." Thus Christ prophesied two things, their wanderings and their return; their scattering from Him, and their following after Him into Galilee.
3. Peter's rebuff. Peter said: "Although all shall be offended, yet will not I."
(1) In this Peter first of all set himself up against both the Lord and the Prophets. The Lord said: "All ye shall be offended." He said: "Not I." The Prophets said: "The sheep shall be scattered." Peter said: Yet will not I."
Let us beware how we discount the Words spoken by the lips of the Lord, and by the pens of the Prophets. God's Word is forever settled in Heaven.
(2) In this Peter in his self-confidence set himself above the eleven. Christ said, "All," the Prophets said, the same thing as "all." Peter said, "Although all * * yet will not I." It is written, "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." Thus it was that a boastful self-confidence, was the first step in Peter's wanderings.
II. PETER'S SECOND DOWNWARD STEP (Mark 14:37-41.14.38 )
1. The Garden watch. After the Supper was ended, after Peter's boast had been made, the Lord Jesus went out with the disciples into Gethsemane. There He said to the twelve, "Sit ye here, while I shall pray." Motioning, however to Peter, James, and John, He took them with Him. The Lord was sore amazed and very heavy, as He saw the hour of His travail sweeping fast upon Him. Turning to the three disciples He said, "My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch."
Then, He went forward a stone's throw, and fell on the ground and prayed.
2. The sleeping disciples. While Jesus prayed the disciples slept. How great must have been this added sorrow. In Mark 14:37 we read: "And He cometh, and findeth them sleeping." He did not awaken, James, nor disturb John. They had made no rash promises. However, the Lord did say unto Peter: "Simon, sleepest thou? couldest thou not watch one hour?" He who had been so persistent in asserting his unwavering fidelity, had fallen asleep the very first hour. He who had said: "Although all * * yet not I," slept with the other two.
Thus we see how Peter was rushing a downward path.
3. The warning of the Saviour. As Christ found them sleeping He said: "Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak." How considerate was our Lord toward His disciples. He did not scold nor berate them. He did tenderly warn them against the tempter. He rather excused their sleeping, acknowledging that in their spirit they meant to watch and to pray, but that in their flesh they were weak.
For our part we want to weigh well these warning words. When Christ said, "Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation," He just the same as said, If ye do not watch and pray, ye will yield to the tempter. This is doubly emphasized in the expression, "The Spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak." There is no man who can meet the tempter in the energy of his flesh because the flesh is weak. The only way is to watch and to pray; and thus, to walk in the Spirit.
III. PETER'S THIRD DEFECTION (Mark 14:47-41.14.48 )
1. Approaching circumstances. When the Lord returned to the three disciples after His second hour of agony and prayer, He found them asleep again for their eyes were heavy. Neither wist they what to answer Him. "When He came to them the third time and found them still sleeping and said: "Sleep on now, and take your rest: it is enough, the hour is come; behold, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners."
As they rose up to meet the approaching mob, Judas one of the twelve gave Christ the kiss of betrayal. Then the multitude laid their hands on Jesus and took Him.
2. Peter's rashness. Our key verse says: "And one of them that stood by drew a sword, and smote a servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear."
Another Gospel tells us that Peter was the one who did the smiting, and that Malchus was the servant who was smitten.
(1) We like to think of this scene as Peter's carnal effort to re-establish himself in the eyes of his Master. He had failed to watch and he had failed to pray. Now, he was determined to make up in doing, what he lacked in praying.
How many there are who fail in the spiritualities, and then by some carnal effort they try to patch up their wrong. Let the Christian know that carnal activities, can never mend spiritual lethargy.
(2) We are forced to think that much of carnal service is no more effective than cutting off ears. What we do in the flesh cannot please God. Our greatest service is altogether unacceptable if it is a carnal service. Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels; though I give all my goods to feed the poor; though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, I am accomplishing nothing that is acceptable unto God.
3. Christ's undoing of a well meant but misdirected service. Our Lord stooped down, picked up the ear, put it back on Malchus, and then told Peter to put up his sword. God grant that our service may not make necessary a similar miraculous intervention.
IV. PETER'S FOURTH DIGRESSION (Mark 14:54 )
1. The forsaken Christ. As the multitude approached the Lord Jesus said unto them: "Are ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and with staves to take Me? I was daily with you in the Temple teaching, and ye took me not: but the Scriptures must be fulfilled." It was after the above words that we read: "And they all forsook Him, and fled."
How many there are who are willing to follow the Lord in His popularity and in the day of His power, who forsake Him in the hour of His persecution. Of such we would write, "Ye did run well; who did hinder you?"
Such disciples are like unto the seed which was sown In the stony places, which had not root in itself, but dured for a while: and then when tribulation and persecution came because of the Word, by and by was offended.
2. The sulking disciple. As they forsook and fled, Peter, perhaps, remembered his words so boastfully spoken, "Although all shall be offended, yet will not I." At least Peter followed afar off. His place, beyond any doubt, was at his Master's side. The Master, however, had rebuked Peter, and told him to put up his sword. In turn, Peter must have gone up the miff tree with feelings wounded, with spirit sulking. Therefore, with a heart sore, he followed afar off.
Some saints who love the Lord seem almost anxious to have their feelings hurt. They leave them hanging out purposefully hoping that some one will step upon them.
V. PETER'S FIFTH DEPARTURE (Mark 14:54 ; Mark 14:66 )
Mark 14:54 tells us: "And he sat with the servants, and warmed himself at the fire." Mark 14:66 says: "As Peter was beneath in the palace." Mark 14:67 says: "When she saw Peter warming himself."
1. Peter's restlessness. In the study of the four Gospels we find that Peter was now here and now there. Beyond doubt he was uncomfortable in his spirit, and unhappy in his heart. He knew that he was wrong and yet he was trying to force himself to believe that he was right. Self- justification is very simple. Where is he who is not ready to condemn another while, at the same time, he shields himself?
Sin is heinous wherever you find it, but sin is more than evil when the sinner excuses his sins.
2. Peter sitting with the servants. The 1st Psalm says: "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful." We might write it thus: "Unhappy, miserable, is the man who sits with the servants of Satan."
How many there are today who seem more satisfied with the fellowship of the ungodly than with the fellowship of their Lord.
3. Peter warmed himself at the fire. Permit us to play upon words a little bit. There are many fires at which saints may warm themselves. I do not mean fires Divinely kindled, but fires kindled by the evil one. The devil has his fires. May we suggest that the theaters, the movies, the card tables, the dance halls are all fires of the enemy.
Shall we who are called out of the world, live in the world and love the world? Do we think that we must go down into the pleasures of sin to satisfy our desire for pleasure? Did God say in vain, "In Thy presence is fullness of joy; and at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore"? Is not the fruit of the Spirit joy, and peace, and happiness?
Remember that the Saviour bequeathed unto us His joy, when He said: "That My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full."
VI. PETER'S SIXTH STUMBLING (Mark 14:66-41.14.72 )
1. The nagging of the enemy. As Peter stood warming himself at the fire thrice he was taunted by maids. The enemy is always ready to profit by a sore spot in a believer's character. If there is an ember of discontent or chagrin, the devil will certainly seek to fan it into a flame. One of the hardest things for a nervous, impetuous, high-strung Christian to bear is nagging. Thus it was as the rebellious Peter pouting against his Lord, stood in the midst of the enemy, one maid and another rubbed it in on him. The first perhaps saw that it angered Peter, so a second one tried her hand.
2. Peter's denial. First of all Peter said, "I know not, neither understand I what thou sayest." Again, a maid said: "This is one of them," and Peter denied again. A little after they that stood by said, "Surely thou art one of them: for thou art a Galilaean, and thy speech agreeth thereto." This was too much. Peter lost all control, and he began to curse and to swear, saying, "I know not this Man of whom ye speak." Peter reminds us of a boiler heated to over tension, until the safety valve lets forth the steam.
3. The accusing cock crow. As Peter raised his voice the third time in denial, he heard the cock utter its second crow. Then he remembered how, at the time of his boasting, when he had said, "Although all shall be offended, yet will not I," that Jesus had said unto him, "Verily I say unto thee, That this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny Me thrice."
Thus it was that the telltale cock brought Peter back to his senses, and he went out thinking thereupon. As he went he wept, and wept bitterly. Thus it was that in the moment of Peter's greatest sin came his greatest sorrow. All of this tells us unmistakably that while he failed in conduct he never wavered in faith.
VII. PETER'S SEVENTH MARK OF WEAKNESS (John 21:20-43.21.22 )
We carry you now to a post-resurrection scene. Peter had been privately seen after the resurrection by the Lord. Later on, before the eleven, Peter had made public his faith and love, and had been restored to his service for the Master.
Then it was that the event we present occurred.
1. The Lord's prophecy of Peter's death. Turning to the one who had denied Him with an oath, the Lord asserted his faithfulness even unto the death, when He said to Peter: "When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake He, signifying by what death [Peter] should glorify God." Then said He unto Peter, "Follow Me," and Peter did follow Him.
2. Peter's query. After the Lord had spoken to Peter of his own death, Peter did not so much as suggest a plea for mercy and pity. He had, when Christ had told him His own death, said unto Jesus, "Spare thyself Lord." Peter wanted Christ to pity Himself, but now he did not consider his own life. He did, however, err in one thing. Turning to John, and addressing the Lord, he said, "What shall this man do?" Immediately Christ replied, "What is that to thee? follow thou Me."
It is not for us to question the wisdom or the guiding hand of our Lord. It is for us to step forward to do or to die.
Few people have ever heard of a "sick" pearl, but it seems that even these beautiful gems pine and lose their color at times, and can be restored to health only by a prolonged visit to their ocean home. At the foot of a cliff under the windows of the Castle of Mirimar, formerly the residence of the Mexican emperor, Maximilian, at a depth of eighty feet below the surface of the Adriatic, is a kind of cage fashioned by divers in the face of the rock. In that cage are some of the most magnificent pearls in existence. They belong to the Archduchess Rainer. Having been left unworn for a long time, the gems lost their color and became "sick," and the experts were unanimous in declaring that the only means by which they could be restored to their original brilliancy was by submitting them to a prolonged immersion in the depths of the sea. They have been lying there for a number of years, and are gradually but very slowly regaining their former unrivaled oriency.
Here is a hint for curing sick souls. Put them back into their native element of prayer and communion with Christ. H.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on Mark 14". "Living Water". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany