There is a saying in our culture which goes ‘The road to Hell is often paved with good intentions.’ That saying has some validity in our Gospel reading this morning, especially as we examine the behavior of the disciples in general, and Peter in particular, on the night Jesus was betrayed. Before we talk about the behavior of Peter & the other disciples that evening, let’s look at some events before Jesus’ arrest that fateful night.
Jesus was having the Passover meal with His disciples, and He knew His time had come. Since He knew He would be arrested that night, His humanity was kicking in, and He was scared. He was so scared that while praying in the garden, he suffered from a medical condition known as Hematidrosis, which is the medical term used to describe the phenomenon of a person sweating drops of blood.
A person sweats blood when tiny blood vessels that feed the sweat glands rupture, causing the sweat glands to exude blood. This condition is often caused by extreme distress or fear, such as one’s imminent death, torture, or severe ongoing abuse.
In addition to facing the anticipation of the physical pain from the beatings and the Cross, Jesus was also dealing with the emotional pain of Judas’ upcoming betrayal, as well as anticipating the upcoming abandonment by Peter & the other disciples, on the worst night of His life, leaving Him alone. Jesus knew He would need His disciples to pray with Him and for Him that night, but the disciples would fall asleep & abandon Him.
That had to have been upsetting to Jesus. We all know the feeling when we are facing life’s challenges; we want to know our Christian family is praying with us and praying for us. Jesus, in His humanity was the same, He needed the support of His earthly family, but His family abandoned Him instead.
This was a horrific time for Jesus; in today’s parlance or vernacular, Jesus, while praying in the garden, was having a meltdown, thinking of the upcoming betrayals, desertions, and physical pain of the beatings and Cross.
He knew He was going to face all of this without the moral and spiritual support of His friends. When I say Jesus was having a meltdown, I’m not saying Jesus was having a meltdown or temper tantrum like a two-year-old.
I am saying Jesus was facing the worst night of His earthly existence, He was facing it alone, and those circumstances triggered an emotional meltdown by Jesus and the meltdown was evidenced by His tears. Those were some of the events leading up to today’s Gospel.
As we review our Gospel this morning, we see several moving parts. We have Jesus finishing His prayer in the garden, betrayed by Judas with a kiss, arrested by a mob, Peter cutting off an ear, and the disciples running away. Jesus restores the man’s ear before being led away by the soldiers. Later, Peter denied Jesus three times. This is a brief synopsis of today’s gospel.
I started the message by saying ‘The road to Hell is often paved with good intentions.’ This saying is true for all the disciples, especially Peter.
So often, when we discuss the disciples, we beat them up. We tend to say ‘the disciples walked with Jesus, saw the miracles, & heard the teachings. Furthermore, the meanings of the parables were often later explained to them privately. How could the disciples not know Jesus was the Christ and how could they abandon Him on that fateful night?
I would like to respond to some of these questions by being mindful that the disciples were human and impacted by the original sin like the rest of us; I am also asking us, as fellow human beings to put ourselves in their shoes, and ask ourselves how would we have reacted in our humanness, if we had been in the disciples’ place? Furthermore, as fallen human beings, had we witnessed Jesus’ miracles, and heard his teachings, would we have understood the identity of Jesus any better?
Another crucial point: Christian tradition teaches that the disciples were teenagers; Peter and Phillip may have been the only adults in the group, but Peter and Phillip were also young men.
Their ages are important because modern science has revealed that the frontal lobe of the brain, the part of the brain that controls memory, emotion, problem solving, judgement, language, sexual behavior, etc., is not fully developed until we reach our mid-to-late twenties.
Other researchers have indicated our frontal lobe is not fully developed until we reach our early thirties.
The physiology & development of our frontal lobe is one of the many reasons we have better judgement, and make better decisions, as we get older. Furthermore, the disciples were dealing with Jesus before His death and resurrection and simply did not understand He was truly the Messiah.
Understanding the disciples were dealing with Jesus before his death and resurrection, understanding these were young men inexperienced in life, as well as not having fully developed brains, may explain some of their behavior the night Jesus was arrested. These factors may also explain the patience, and sometimes paternalistic attitude Jesus often displayed when dealing with the disciples.
I discuss the disciples’ behavior because we have similar life experiences, with similar behaviors, in our lives. We’re not perfect & we make mistakes.
In our humanness, we occasionally exercise faulty judgement, and our impulses sometime race ahead of our better judgement. We are human and Jesus understands our humanity. He understood the humanity and fears of the disciples as they ran away that fateful night and He understands us when we fall short.
The Bible says all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The Bible also says, ‘If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins, and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness.’
The Bible tells us to confess our sins, own up to our old mess, and God will forgive us. We also should make atonement & restitution when necessary.
Although the Bible says to confess our sins, the Bible does not say to wallow in our past, by continuously ruminating over our past mistakes and shortcomings, while never forgiving ourselves.
Many of us find it easy to forgive others but extremely difficult to forgive ourselves. Our pride and dignity say it is okay for others to make mistakes, but it is not okay for us. We must be strong; we must be role models; we must keep it together; we punish ourselves if we fall short in our own eyes. We sometimes forget our humanity during crunch time.
Many years ago, Dee and I had a friend whose eight-year-old son was killed in an auto accident on the turnpike. We went over to the house that night and the dad said to me “Wallace, I have to be strong.”
Sometimes, I am a little too blunt and uncouth for a given situation and that night was one of those times. When that guy said to me ‘he had to be strong.’ I responded by saying “Man, you are being foolish; this is not the time for you to talk about being strong. This is a time for you to let go, grieve the sudden loss of your son, and allow others to minister to you and be strong for you.
I share that story because historically, I thought it was a form of weakness for me to let go of the mistakes from my unsavory past. I somehow thought that by me holding on to my past, burying all the hurts & disappointments, was somehow a demonstration of strength.
Looking back, it was not a demonstration of strength; it was an exercise in false pride, ego, fecklessness, and arrogance. It was an indication that I thought I knew better than God. After all, God tells is to share our burdens one with another and to also bring our burdens to Him. That ‘strong man’ act was me saying ‘I don’t need God or anyone else; I got this. My ‘strong man ‘act was also an indication I didn’t think enough of myself to forgive myself for my past, although God had already forgiven me.
Worst of all, my behavior was saying I did not trust my wife enough to share my burdens & fears with her. I was too focused on being the ‘Man’; too focused on being big man on campus.
Somewhere, beneath all the machismo and bravado, was a person who was scared to death and did not believe he was worthy to forgive himself.
Let me tell you, my behavior created many differences of opinion and intense fellowship in the Scott household.
If any of you out there are holding onto past failures for whatever reason, ask for God’s help, strength, tools, & direction to let that mess go. Holding on to past failures and mistakes only holds us back. Let it go!!
God has forgiven us, and it is time for us to forgive ourselves. God forgave everyone involved in the crucifixion of Christ. God forgave the man on the cross with Jesus, as well as forgiving Peter and the disciples.
Speaking of Peter and the disciples, Peter is often disparaged because he denied Jesus the night Christ was arrested. Peter is also criticized because Jesus would occasionally rebuke Peter to keep him in line.
Matthew 16: 21 – 24 tell the story of Jesus explaining to His disciples what was going to happen to Him in Jerusalem. Peter pulled Jesus aside and said, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!”
Jesus said to Peter “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.”
Peter was out of step with God’s redemptive plan which is why Jesus rebuked him. However, Peter as a friend, was also trying to protect Jesus. Peter was essentially saying, ‘Lord, I will not let this happen; they are going to have to come through me to get to you.’
Peter proved his commitment to physically protecting Jesus the night Jesus was arrested. All the Gospels tell us someone with Jesus cut off the servant’s ear, but it was John who clarified it by saying it was Peter who cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant; the man was named Malchus.
Jesus rebuked Peter in the garden by saying, and I am paraphrasing ‘Peter, put up the sword. He who lives by the sword shall die by the sword. Don’t you know I could call upon twelve legions of angels to rescue me? My father has given me this cup to drink, and I must drink it.’
Was Peter out of step spiritually? Yes, he was! Was Peter trying to protect Jesus His friend? Yes, he was!
Peter is also noted for some good things:
It was Peter who had the faith to get out the boat and walk on water.
It was Peter who identified Jesus by saying “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
It was Peter, who by faith at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, loaned Jesus, a stranger at the time, his fishing boat to teach the multitudes.
It was also Peter, who by faith and obedience obeyed Jesus by dropping his net in the place where Jesus instructed him and hauled a large catch.
Let me talk about this boat incident for one moment. What would you do if a stranger came to you and asked you to borrow your car? Let’s assume the car is the only one you have, and you used this car in your livelihood. What would you do in this situation? Peter, when confronted with this situation gave up his boat; I would struggle with giving up my car.
We can discuss a lot of Peter’s behaviors but let us discuss the issue for which Peter is most famous. Peter denied Christ the night Jesus was arrested. He not only denied Christ, but he denied Jesus three times; Peter’s name and reputation have lived in infamy ever since.
As we review the events from that night, it true that Peter denied Jesus three times, but unlike the other disciples, Peter did not run away; Peter followed Jesus at a distance to the courtyard. The Gospels of Matthew and Mark clearly tell us that the other disciples ran away.
Why would Peter deny Jesus at that time? If we put on our human hats, we may get inkling as to why Peter denied Christ.
He simply could have been frightened. We all have the fight or flight syndrome which becomes active in certain situations. Peter couldn’t fight or run; lying may have been the best option for Peter to save himself.
Where was God in Peter’s fear? Earlier that evening, when Jesus was asking God to remove the cup from Him, God did not remove the cup, but God sent an angel to minister to Jesus.
Why didn’t God send an angel to Peter? God could have sent an angel to strengthen Peter. Please allow me a little bit of human conjecture to perhaps explain why God may have not sent an angel to strengthen Peter:
Perhaps Peter, in his attempts to always protect Jesus physically was in the way of God’s redemptive plan, so God possibly allowed Peter to stay in his fear, for the protection of God’s plan.
After all, who would have delivered the sermon at Pentecost with the same passion as Peter? Who would the Lord have used to take the message of Christ to the Jews? Who would God have used to perform some of the miracles in the Book of Acts who had the credibility of Peter? Perhaps, from God’s overall plan of redemption, God may have allowed Peter to become fearful to protect his plan from Peter.
Another potential human reason: Peter was a family man; he had a wife and kids. Most of us as family people will consider how our decisions affect our families, especially our spouse and children. In addition to the pain of probable crucifixion, Peter could have thought to himself: If I get myself crucified, who will feed my wife and kids?
Perhaps, the sheer enormity of the situation, along with the accompanying pressure of the moment, was too much for Peter. Have you ever gone into a situation, with the intent of doing or saying a certain thing, but the size of the moment paralyzed you and ruined your good intentions.
Have you ever been in a pressure situation wherein you felt as if you could hardly breathe, let alone speak? Any of these factors could have caused Peter to lie; he was in a very tough spot. If we are honest as humans, we could possibly understand why Peter lied and not disparage him so much.
Let me begin to close this down by saying Peter was like all of us. He often meant well but sometimes he mangled things. He occasionally paved the road to Hell with good intentions, as we occasionally do.
Peter, like us, probably wanted to be stronger for his friend Jesus that night, but simply could not, at that moment.
Peter, like us, probably felt the way the Apostle Paul felt in Romans 7:19 when Paul says, ‘For the good that I want to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.’ Even the great Apostle Paul struggled with the appropriate behavior at certain times. This struggle lives inside of us and it is called the Sin nature.
The beauty of walking with God is God sent His Son to shed blood for our sins. The blood of Christ washes us clean, and Christ restores us.
As we consider Peter lying in the garden, you know the word got around
Peter betrayed Jesus. It is possible Peter could have lost credibility and leadership with the other disciples. However, Jesus did not allow that to happen to Peter. Jesus restores Peter publicly in John 21: 15-17.
5 So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?”
He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”
He said to him, “Feed My lambs.”
16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?”
He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”
He said to him, “Tend My sheep.”
17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?”
And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.”
There is a lot of teaching in these verses, but I want you to see two things:
1) Jesus forgave Peter.
2) Jesus restored Peter publicly.
God restored Peter, and continued to use him, even though Peter made mistakes in the past. Even though Peter made mistakes in the past, Peter had a heart for God.
God is not as concerned with our perfection as He is with our hearts. I believe God contracted this message this morning to remind us He wants a loving and willing heart. I believe God can live with our human mistakes and missteps if we have a heart directed towards serving Him.
The other thing I believe God is saying to us this morning is for us to stop trying to be a Superman or Superwoman. Stop wallowing in your past mistakes because living in our past failures keeps us in our past failures.
Last paragraph: John 5:5-9 tells the story of a man who had been crippled for 38 years. This man would sit by the Bethesda pool waiting for an angel to stir the water, but he was never first in the pool because he was lame.
Jesus asked the man one day if he wanted to be made whole and the man began to lament the fact he could never get into the pool first. Jesus told the man to take up his bed and walk. Immediately, this man who had been crippled for 38 years, got up walking and praising God.
This story is obviously about a physical healing for a man who was crippled for a very long time. However, I believe this story also applies to all of us this morning. I believe many of us have some old regrets from the deep past which we still carry.
I also believe Jesus is asking us this morning will we be made whole? Will we be made whole from the mistakes, pain, sins, and shortcomings from our past. God wants to heal us.
Therefore, I am believing that the Spirit of the Living God is falling afresh on us this morning breaking us, melting us, molding us, and filling us.
I believe the Spirit of the Living God has a specific healing plan for each of us. I am believing God will give each of us an ear and a heart for Him.
I am believing that just as Peter obeyed Christ and received a large catch of fish, we will obey Christ and trust God for the rest. Let us let God into our hearts and clean up our old mess!! AMEN!
Pastor W. C. Scott
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