“Failure isn’t Final” (John MacDiarmid)

Sermon preached at Poole High School for Poole Christian Fellowship on 8 April 2016

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As we work our way slowly and deliberately through the events of Holy week as told by Luke, we come now to a story within the main drama. The apostle Peter has his own part of the story of Holy week, and Luke now tells it.

This talk is dedicated to anyone who has dropped the ball and some stage, dropped a clanger, lost the plot. It can be a mild misdemeanour to the most horrendous catalogue of crimes. With God, failure is not inevitable, it does not need to happen and it should not happen. But when it does, it is not the end of the story. Failure isn’t final.

 Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. 55 And when some there had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. 56 A servant-girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, ‘This man was with him.’

57 But he denied it. ‘Woman, I don’t know him,’ he said.

58 A little later someone else saw him and said, ‘You also are one of them.’

‘Man, I am not!’ Peter replied.

59 About an hour later another asserted, ‘Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.’

60 Peter replied, ‘Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!’ Just as he was speaking, the cock crowed. 61 The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: ‘Before the cock crows today, you will disown me three times.’ 62 And he went outside and wept bitterly.

This story does not sit in a vacuum. We have the main drama in the passage above, but we need to consider it in the context of both a prequel and a sequel.

1. The Prequel

The Person – since we first met Peter early in the gospel, we have come to know and love Peter

    1. Big Heart – a man with a heart for God and heart for people. Larger than life, impulsive, with a good heart – but unpredictable.
    2. Big Mouth – and with the big heart went a big mouth. This was a man who was never afraid to say what he thought and to speak often before he thought
    3. Big Fall – and if you put the two together, he seems to be constantly heading for a big fall. It only seems a matter of time before Peter puts himself in a position where he will fall heavily

The Prediction. A few hours previously, when Peter was making his usual big claims about loyalty, Jesus predicted his downfall, but, poignantly also predicted that it would not be the end for Peter. That prophecy comes to us as well. We will let Jesus down – but Jesus prays for us that our faith will not fail. The point is this: Jesus knows that is disciples will let him down, but he tells us, that there will always be a way forward.

The Perplexity. Peter must have left the upper room confused and distraught, and when Jesus rebukes him for reacting to his arrest in the only he knows how – with a sword – how perplexed did Peter feel. The seen is one of confusion and devastation – the scene is set for one of the most famous betrayals of all time.

2. The Drama

We are now into the meat of the story.

Following Jesus – but at a distance. Peter is following Jesus – but at a distance. Confusion, and a lack of understanding as to what is going on, determine that Jesus follows at a safe distance. How easy it is to follow Jesus at a safe distance! And what a high price we pay for it when we do!

Three strikes and you’re out. As Peter sat with the staff at a fire warming himself, with Jesus possibly being beaten up in the background, it is easy to see why he took the path of self-preservation. But it doesn’t excuse it. Peter had three opportunities to tell the truth, and three times, with an oath he proclaimed that he knew nothing about his Lord. Our failings may be understandable – but that does not excuse them.

The look – and the devastation. We can only imagine what that look from Jesus was like. It produced the result need, which was an understanding from peter of what he had done, and that terrible sense of lostness, and darkness that comes over believers as they consider their sin in the light of a Holy God.

For Peter, it appears to be all over. But it’s not. Unknown to Peter the very event that would make it possible for such sinners to be reconciled to Jesus was unfolding before his eyes.

3. The Sequel

Luke leaves Peter here to return to the main narrative. But we have to see here that not only is it not all over for Peter, it’s just starting. So what is the way back?

  1. Remorse – a genuine sorrow for sin – nit simply feeling bad because things have turned out badly, but a genuine remorse for our sin and a determination to put things right, which will lead to…
  2. Repentance – a conscious and deliberate turning back to God. We are not told when and how this happened to Peter, but by Easter Sunday Peter was right there at the empty tomb.
  3. Restoration – John tells the story in his gospel of how Peter was restored by Jesus, and affirmed, not once but three times, which included
  4. Incredibly Jesus uses restored sinners and failures to build his church. It was so for Peter and it can be so for us.

For everyone who has let God down, there is a way forward.

 

 

 

John MacDiarmid

March 2016

Posted Under: Talks

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