Sunday, January 15, 2012 -
The fall of Peter - the crack in the Rock - Mark 14:66-72 - “And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came,  and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, "You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus."  But he denied it, saying, "I neither know nor understand what you mean." And he went out into the gateway and the rooster crowed.  And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, "This man is one of them."  But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, "Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean."  But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, "I do not know this man of whom you speak."  And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, "Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times." And he broke down and wept.”
1) First of all, Peter was not the first Pope - There is nothing in the NT to substantiate such a claim. Peter was in no way separated from common life with all of its problems. He was married, he had a mother-in-law, he was extremely fallible, he sinned and repented exactly as we all must do.
It was Peter's confession of Christ that was foundational to the faith of the church, not his person - Matthew 16:16-18 - “Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."  And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.  And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
Though not in the book of Mark, we need to take just a minute to look at this text from Matthew. This confession is drawn out of Peter by Jesus. Jesus wants to hear it because it must be correct. It’s not enough that Peter have his own personal view about Jesus - even if he believes it very deeply and sincerely. Jesus wants to hear Peter’s confession because He wants to identify it as accurate. Peter’s view - and that of the other disciples in Peter’s hearing - must be different from the pluralistic opinions listed. This confession, not the person of Peter, is the foundation of the church of Christ.
2) In all likelihood, this story of personal failure came from Peter's own lips - Matthew tells of the last anyone saw of Peter before the trial of Jesus - Matthew 26:57-58 - "Then those who had seized Jesus led him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders had gathered.  And Peter was following him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and going inside he sat with the guards to see the end.”
Most scholars date the writing of Mark (the earliest gospel account) at around A.D. 50. That means Peter probably preached about his own fall and restoration by Jesus long before the Gospel of Mark was set down in writing. He had done something he was ashamed of and he told about it openly. What a divine testimony to the grace of Jesus in the restoration of Peter!
3) Our zeal often runs ahead of our courage and commitment - Peter had just recently declared that even if everybody else denied Jesus, he himself never would - Mark 14:29 - “Peter said to him, "Even though they all fall away, I will not."
In fact, with the other disciples, Peter had shown great courage in defending Jesus at His arrest. John tells us that it was Peter who had cut off the servant's ear (John 18:10). Truly, Peter did seem ready to die for Jesus. But now Peter was alone. He was nervous. The innocent sounding questions from the servant girl caught him off guard.
This is where Jesus' instructions about watching and praying are seen to be most important. Most of our flubs don't occur when we're poised on the battle front with our swords drawn. The real danger lies in the grind and trial of daily living - when situations squeeze us into compromise before we even think through what's happening. Our tempers, our greed, our fear, our pride - without constant prayer and reliance on the Holy Spirit, these make traitors of us all.
Mark 14:38 - "Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."
Only time alone with Jesus points out our weak points. And because we don't know when these weaknesses will be exploited, when our strength will fade, when our courage will run out of gas, we need to abide closely in Jesus. Daily prayer times are so crucial because we never know what each day will bring. All we know for certain is on our own we will surely fall.
4) Peter's broken heart - I've often thought that there was more to Peter's tears than we first imagine. Not all that long ago Peter had heard some very disturbing words from the lips of Jesus - Matthew 10:33 - "....whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”
Those are tough words to recall when you’ve failed the Lord. Peter didn't just feel shame. He felt fear. Always remember that a text without a merciful Redeemer can be a brutal thing. Peter thought he had blown it. He thought he had crossed a line - that there was no hope any more. As soon as the cock crowed the second time Peter remembered the prediction of Jesus - that he would deny Jesus three times.
He probably also remembered his own brashness in declaring he would never forsake Jesus, no matter what. He also remembered how serious it was to deny Jesus before men.
We should be so grateful for Peter. He has such highs and lows. We can all relate to him. Remember Peter when your heart aches, almost too much to face God at all. Think of him when you feel you've fallen too far, or been too foolish. Remember him when the devil tries to keep you from the throne room of Jesus.
5) In Peter we receive both warning and hope - The warning is simply this - it's easy to be relatively close to Jesus, to know all about Him - like Peter, even know Him as the Messiah - and yet have something lurking under - just barely under - the surface of our lives that lies ready to turn from Him when even we least expect it. Cleave to the Lord in deep humility and attentiveness. The strength you draw in the quiet of today’s routine may be desperately needed in tomorrow’s trial. You simply don’t know now for what you may be storing up strength.
The hope that shines so brightly is that Jesus can build a great church with such flawed stones. How many lives were touched by Peter? How many lost people converted? Even some books of the NT come from his pen (or quill). Such is the nature of God's grace. Never quit. Never count yourself out.