Failing Forward

Photo by Hugo Fergusson on Unsplash

After Jesus had celebrated the Passover Meal with His Disciples, and instituted the “Lord’s Table”, we read:

Matthew 26:30-32 And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives. 31 Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad. 32 But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee.

All shall be offended”? Not just Judas Iscariot, but all the disciples who followed Jesus for 3 ½ years shall be offended”. This is an interesting word our Lord used here. It is the Greek σκανδαλίζω skandalízō, (pronounced skan-dal-id’-zo), from which we get our word “SCANDALIZED”. It means “to be morally offended, shocked at, to be brought into reproach, or to be maliciously or falsely spoken of”. We have all seen scandals in the world, and even in the Christian community. Not too long ago we learned that a noted Bible Scholar and Preacher was involved in a scandalous relationship with women. A well respected Pastor I knew many years ago was accused of, and convicted of, child molestation. That was a scandal. We have all heard of scandals. Jesus said, “All will be scandalized because of Me this very night”.

Jesus’ Ministry Was Scandalous

From the beginning of His ministry, Jesus was known as a scandalous person. Those who did not believe in Him thought Him to be a mad man. Hear a few of His statements:

John 6:38 … I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of Him (the Father) that sent me.

John 12:46 I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.

John 18:37 … for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.

Mark 2:17 They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

Nearly every word that Jesus spoke scandalized the Pharisees, Sadducees, the Priests, and the Lawyers. Jesus spoke as if He were somehow preexistent with God. Jesus was not secretive about His mission. “I CAME DOWN FROM HEAVEN, not to do mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me” (John 6:38). What! The Pharisees said, “This is Jesus, the son of Joseph. We know His mother and father. What does He mean by “I came down from Heaven” (John 6:42).

Throughout His ministry, Jesus sought to change how people thought of God. He knew that His time was at hand. Jesus always knew – and told His disciples – that as Messiah “he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day” (Matthew 16:21). He would do this for our salvation. And Jesus would walk this path alone. Jesus knew that each and every one of these men, men who ministered alongside of Him for 3 ½ years, every man would abandon Jesus. Jesus knew that He would betrayed because “it is written”. He quoted the prophesy of …

Zechariah 13:7 … smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered…

Jesus must go the Way of the Cross, for this is what God has decreed in His Word. The Old Testament wrote of the coming of Christ, as Jesus told His disciples.

Luke 24:44-46 … These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. … Thus it is written, and thus it {was necessary for} Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day…

Jesus is going to be falsely judged by man, but appropriately judged by God the Father. Jesus will be “the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). And Jesus will go to the Cross alone, God the Son giving Himself for the sons of Adam. Why? Isaiah said it this way:

Isaiah 59:15-16 … the Lord saw it, and it displeased him that there was no judgment. 16 And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore his arm brought salvation unto him; and his righteousness, it sustained him.

Humanity was fallen, and there was none who could help it back up. A sinner cannot make payment for sin before an immortal and everlastingly Holy God. So God must clothe Himself with flesh. God must come down from Heaven, a one Man Calvary to save “whosoever believeth on Him” (John 3:15-16; 11:26).

We Are All Broken, Like Peter

Matthew 26:33 Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended.

There is a little Peter in all of us. We think we are strong enough. We think we are good enough. “Though every one else betray You, Jesus, I will NEVER be scandalized”. We all nurse this self righteous, “I am good enough” mentality. I always hear it when someone public falls. The self righteous amongst us take shots at the fallen because, after all, “I would never do that!” Beloved, we are all broken. We all fail.

The beginning of spiritual power with God only comes when we realize I AM BROKEN and I DESPERATELY NEED JESUS. Not just every now and then – but daily. Daily!

  • It was self righteousness that caused Sarah to send Hagar into her husband Abraham, so she might have a surrogate child. No need to wait on God. Let’s “do it yourself”. It was self righteousness that later caused Hagar, the mother of Ishmael, to brag to Sarah how much better she was because she had a child. Self righteousness! Oh, how horrible it is.
  • It was self righteousness that led to the first murder in humanity. Abel offered an appropriate sacrifice to God, but Cain did not and would not. Rather than repent, he murdered his brother – and Abel’s blood cried out to God!
  • It is self righteousness that is evident when people will not repent, and turn to Jesus for salvation. Self righteousness is a “smoke in God’s nostrils, a fire that burns all day long” (Isaiah 65:5). The self righteous person is warned of God:

1 Corinthians 10:12 … let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.

We all desperately need Jesus to be both our Lord and Savior. We need not be self righteous. It is foolish. Let us look to Him Who loved us, and gave Himself for us (Galatians 1:4; 2:20).

Jesus tells Peter:

Matthew 26:34 Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.

You ought to be happy when Jesus reminds you that you are NOT perfect! Jesus knew the nature of humans. Not only is Jesus Creator God, but He is God become Man. He has lived among humanity for some 30+ years from His incarnation. Jesus knew what was in mankind” (John 2:25).

Jesus knew my heart before He called me to salvation. He knew I was imperfect, and would remain broken until the day I see Him face to face. And yet He loves me anyway. Jesus loves Peter, and all His disciples. When Jesus told Peter and Andrew his brother:

Matthew 4:19 … Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.

He knew that Peter and Andrew were imperfect. When Jesus told the Tax Collector Matthew:

Matthew 9:9 … Follow Me ..

He knew Matthew was imperfect. But this is the reason Jesus called the broken. Jesus does not call “many wise people after the flesh, many mighty, many noble ones” (1 Corinthians 1:26). Jesus calls the broken. The marred. The sick. The sinner. He calls us from our brokenness to follow Him.

But Peter wants to argue with Jesus:

Matthew 26:35 Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples.

Peter was leading the “Holier Than Thou” Choir – and after he sings, the Choir backs Him up!

None of us will fail You, Jesus. You just wait and see!”. But they do fail – they fail in first of all the simplest thing they can do.

The Disciples Fail Jesus In Gethsemane

Matthew 26:36-38 Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. 37 And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. 38 Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.

When Jesus prepared to do a hard thing, He prayed. He sought the Father’s will and the Spirit’s power. Jesus takes Peter, James, and John with Him into the inner part of the Garden. Jesus needs their companionship as He prays. So Jesus asks them to Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. This is not a hard thing. And yet, they cannot do this simple thing. We read:

Matthew 26:40-41 And {Jesus} cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

Jesus has prayed about an hour – and Peter, James, and John are fast asleep. Our Lord tells them to “Watch and Pray”. The word “WATCH” is the Greek “γρηγορεύω grēgoreúō, (pronounced gray-gor-yoo’-o)”, which means “WAKE UP!”. They were supposed to be vigilant.

1 Peter 5:8 Be sober, be vigilant {grēgoreúō, “Wake Up!”}; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:

After rebuking them, Jesus goes back to pray, and returns a second time.

Matthew 26:43-44 … {Jesus} came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy. 44 And he left them, and went away again, and prayed …

Jesus didn’t wake them up this time, but returned to prayer once more. After He has finished praying, Jesus wakes them, and they are immediately betrayed by Judas, and surrounded by the Chief Priest’s men. Jesus is taken, for we are told:

Matthew 26:56 … all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled.

It was just as Jesus predicted. His men all betrayed Him, and ran away. But we are told:

Matthew 26:58 But Peter followed him afar off unto the high priest’s palace, and went in, and sat with the servants, to see the end.

What caused Peter to follow at a distance? Could it be that he remembered Jesus’ words:

Matthew 10:33 But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.

And guilt drove him? Some commentaries say it is because Peter was curious, and wanted to see what happened to Jesus. I don’t think so. I think Peter was regretting abandoning Jesus, and so he decided to follow, but from a distance. But as Jesus told him before:

vs 41 the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak

Peter, James and John should have spent more time praying in the Garden, and less time relying on their swords. As Peter watched, he saw the priest’s followers:

Matthew 26:67 … spit in {Jesus} face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands,

… making a game of tormenting Jesus. Who slapped You, Jesus? Prophesy this!” Peter, who said he would never deny Jesus, stood in the darkness. But Jesus knew. Peter has given the devil a foothold – and now he will be stepped on. We read:

Matthew 26:69-70 Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee. 70 But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest.

A young girl was the first to test Peter. “I saw you with Jesus of Galilee”. In the first denial, Peter says “I don’t understand what you mean”. Strike One, Peter! You have denied the Lord for the first time. Peter quickly moves to another area, a porch.

Matthew 26:71-72 And when he was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth. 72 And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man.

A young girl accused Peter the first time. “You were with Jesus of Galilee”. Now a young woman accuses Peter. “You were with Jesus of Nazareth”. Notice the difference in their words. One saw Peter with Jesus while He ministered in Galilee, the other in Nazareth. Peter’s betrayal becomes stronger:

Matthew 26:72 … again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man.

Jesus told His disciples to never take oaths:

Matthew 5:34-37 But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne: 35 Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. 36 Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. 37 But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

Peter has begun to drift into sin, and the farther he drifts, the darker he will become. To the young girl he said, “I don’t know Him”, but now his denial is stronger, an oath, taking God’s Name in vain. In addition, Peter says,

I don’t know – and here he uses the Greek ἄνθρωπος ánthrōpos, which means “that person” or “the human”!

This is the same Peter who, in Matthew 16:16 said to Jesus, “Thou art the Christ, the son of the Living God!” See how far he has fallen! Meyer’s New Testament Commentary states, “Alas, such is the language, cold and distant, which Peter uses with reference to his Master!” The Pulpit Commentary notes, “He calls his Beloved Master ‘the man’!”, and Vincent’s Word Studies notes, “As if he did not know Jesus’ name”. But Peter’s test is not done.

Matthew 26:73-74 And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech betrayeth thee. 74 Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew.

Pinned down, this time Peter “curses and swears” as he says “I know not that person (anthropos)”. The Bible says that with this denial, the cock or rooster crows. What makes this more tragic is, that as the rooster crows …

Luke 22:61-62 … the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. 62 And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.

Matthew 26:75 And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly (see also Luke 22:62).

Peter wept bitterly {πικρῶς pikrōs, [pronounced pik-roce’]}, “with great grief”. What is interesting is that this word is only used here, and in Luke 22:62, which also speaks of Peter’s bitter grief. Peter denied the Lord, but had a singular repentance over this denial. Peter is now brought to the realization that he is broken, just as we all are broken.

When you repent and acknowledge your brokenness, it is then and only then that God can work in and through you. The Bible says:

James 4:10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.

We are all subject to fall. God knows this. This is why Jesus Christ came. He did not come to us because we have it all together. He came to us to give us the treasury of salvation. The Apostle said:

2 Corinthians 4:5-7 …For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 7 we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.

We do not preach ourselves. We preach Jesus. We are all broken, like Peter – and we are but jars of clay. What Peter did was awful, and he grieved over it. But even in Peter’s failure we see the sovereign Grace of God. Peter’s failure became a part of the story of the Cross, teaching us that the Grace of God is limitless.

The Aftermath Of Failure, Or, Failing Forward

What happened to Peter after this gross betrayal? Was he now unusable by God? Well, let me ask you – what happened to King David after he took another man’s wife, and had that man murdered? David repented, and God used him in a mighty way. And so it is with Peter.

After Jesus died and was buried, three days later He rose from the Grave. When Mary Magdalene went to the tomb of Jesus with Mary the mother of James and Salome,

Mark 16:4-7 … they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great. 5 And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. 6 And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. 7 But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.

Did you get that? “Tell his disciples and Peter”. Peter has been beating himself up for three days, in misery over his betrayal of Christ. The Lord told His angel to make sure that Peter specifically knew that he was still in the plan of God. When the Apostle Paul talks about the resurrection appearances of Jesus, he says:

1 Corinthians 15:5 … {Jesus} was seen of Cephas {a name Jesus gave to Peter}, THEN of the twelve:

Jesus appeared to Peter FIRST following His resurrection. One of the most beautiful pictures we have of the Resurrected Jesus is when He ate fish with His disciples. Following the meal, Jesus asks Peter:

John 21:15-17 … Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. 16 {Jesus} saith to him again the SECOND time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. 17 He saith unto him the THIRD time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the THIRD time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

Jesus never directly confronted Peter for his betrayal. But, as Peter denied Jesus three times, Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love Me?” When Peter said, “Yes, Lord, I love you more than anything”, Jesus told him “Feed My sheep”. Do what God has called you to do. If you are saved by faith in Christ, but have failed Him, may I say His Grace is sufficient to cover your sins. Run to the arms of the Savior. Love Him above all else. And do as He commands you to do, for the glory of God. Returning to Jesus, strengthen your fellow believers (Luke 22:32). May God’s Word and His Holy Spirit drive this message deep into your hearts this day. Amen and Amen!

About bibleteacherorg

A searching Pastor, I am looking for a people who love the Lord and love one another. Daily I pray for the Church. Most of what the world sees today is not the Church, but clubs pretending to be the Church. God is calling to Himself a people willing to be righteous, not self righteous, serving not served. I am called to pastor God's people, those who want to change the world by willingly and willfully following Jesus Christ. Only God is able to change the world, and we must follow His Christ. He is able! Praise His Name! Come quickly Lord Jesus!
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