Restored in Christ: Broken Promises, Matthew 26:69-75

 

69 Now Peter sat outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came to him, saying, “You also were with Jesus of Galilee.” 70 But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you are saying.” 71 And when he had gone out to the gateway, another girl saw him and said to those who were there, “This fellow also was with Jesus of Nazareth.” 72 But again he denied with an oath, “I do not know the Man!” 73 And a little later those who stood by came up and said to Peter, “Surely you also are one of them, for your speech betrays you.” 74 Then he began to curse and swear, saying, “I do not know the Man!” Immediately a rooster crowed. 75 And Peter remembered the word of Jesus who had said to him, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” So he went out and wept bitterly. (Matthew 26: 69-75)

Peter broke a promise—pure and simple. He broke his word. He kept it not. He denied Jesus our Lord, not once, but three times. Peter said that He did not know Jesus. He lied. He didn’t speak the truth. And just before, Peter, like the other disciples, declared that he would not deny the Lord, that he was ready to be put in prison and to die for Jesus.

Such were the words of this disciple Peter and the words of the other disciples of our Lord. Before the betrayal and arrest of Jesus, Peter and the disciples had full confidence in themselves, and they would not be persuaded otherwise. Yet when Jesus’ words came to pass, the disciples and Peter were proven wrong. They were not the ones who kept their word. It was the Lord who kept His.

But even more than Peter not keeping his word that he would not deny the Lord before men, Peter, like on other occasions, denied that the very words of Jesus were true. It was Peter, after all, who had said, “Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble” (Matthew 26:33). And this Peter had said immediately after Jesus had revealed what would happen, “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written: ‘I will strike the Shepherd, And the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ “But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee” (Matthew 26:31-32).

On another occasion, again, Jesus had revealed to the disciples what was to take place. Just as the gospel according to St. Matthew records, “From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day” (Matthew 16:21), so such would be.

These words, however, were not what Peter wanted to either hear or accept. Then, as in the text before us, Peter denied that the words of the Lord were true. In effect, Peter was calling Jesus a liar. He was saying that Jesus was wrong and that His words would not come to pass. Therefore had Peter then declared, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” (Mathew 16:22).

Peter, then and there, was showing his true colors, even as he had shown his true colors when he denied that he knew Jesus when asked if he knew Him. He didn’t want the way of the Lord, the way that the Lord was making known to him. He wanted things to be his own way, not another’s, especially if that way meant suffering and trouble and even death.

In effect, Peter did not want to hear such words from Christ. Nor did he want to accept them. He wanted a different way, a way that he himself perceived to be right. He trusted—not the Lord’s Word—but his own.

But to Peter, Jesus said, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (Matthew 16:23).

In saying what he said to Jesus when Jesus began to show the disciples that he would suffer and be killed, Peter demonstrated that he was not being mindful of the things of God, but of the things of men.

God had his way. Peter had his. These ways were different and these ways were contrary to one another. It’s always been this way since the Fall of our first parents. Since then, the things of God and the things of men are at enmity.

The Word of God is sure and true, even as we fail to understand them. “It is impossible for God to lie” (Hebrews 6:18). “Heaven and earth will pass away,” Jesus says, “but My Words will by no means pass away” (Matthew 24:15).

Our words, on the other hand, like Peter’s, express the position of our sinful human nature, that of self-certainty and pride, rather than firm trust and confidence in the Lord’s truth. Like Peter, we place our own perceptions and strength over against the Lord’s revelation and weaknesses, believing ourselves to be more sure and certain than God himself.

But such is the way of men, not the way of God. The way of God is to speak the truth, even that truth which is unlikeable and undesired, in order that we know our place before the Almighty, and know His way as the way of life and peace. They way of God is to reveal man’s sin, pride, and arrogance, not that he harden himself, but that he repent and believe God’s forgiveness. The way of God is to keep what He says and to fulfill His Word, that man’s confidence and hope rest in Him and not in any other.

Peter’s denial, and first, His unbelief in Jesus’ words, demonstrate where we all are if left to matters according to our own will. We want things our way. Period. But our way is the way of despair, regret, and sorrow. And though we might convince ourselves otherwise, our way leads to death, not to life, for refusing to hear Jesus is refusing to hear God, and that’s precisely what wanting our way is—refusing to hear God. That’s what Peter was doing in today’s text, and that’s what we do as we place ourselves over and above God’s Word and will.

Yet Peter’s action was not the final act or last word. Though today’s text does indeed end with the rooster crowing and Peter weeping bitterly, Peter’s sorrow was a godly sorrow that produced repentance, leading to salvation (2 Corinthians 7:10).

The last word for Peter did not consist of his words of denial of our Lord, for Jesus had earlier said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren” (Luke 22:31-32).

The Father heard the prayer of His beloved Son, and kept Peter from falling into utter despair and the denial of His mercy, as Judas had done. The Lord strengthened him and sustained him, that he deny himself, take up his cross, and follow the Lord wherever He lead.

The last word for Peter was the fulfillment of Jesus’ own words to His beloved disciple. Yes, according to the Word of the Lord, Peter did deny the Lord Jesus. But also did the Words of the Lord find fulfillment as Jesus went the way of His Father to the cross, rose from the dead, and after being raised the third day, went before the disciples into Galilee.

Jesus had said that the Son of man would suffer and die, and be raised the third day. These words of our Lord came to pass. They found fulfillment, and in Christ’s death, God demonstrated His love for the world, for the sinner, for you (Romans 5:8). And because of this love of God shown you in Christ’s death, you have surety and confidence that the Lord is faithful to all that He says. “It is finished!” (John 19:30)

God’s Word is sure and true! Because of Christ, your sin no longer condemns you. Your failed promises and prideful hearts do not at all compare to the fulfilled promises of God in Christ and the compassion of your heavenly Father towards you through Him who endured the cross. Deny yourselves and your own inclinations, which are according to the way of men. Only Christ and His Word are the way of God, the way of life, and the way of everlasting peace.

Don’t trust yourselves. Rather, trust Him “who purchased you, not with gold or silver, but with His holy precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that you may be His own, and live under Him, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead and lives and reigns to all eternity” (from the explanation of the 2nd Article of the Apostles’ Creed, Small Catechism). Amen.

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