What do we do when our commitment to Christ fails? – Mark 14:66-72

Good morning church! It’s a pleasure to be sharing the Word with you. As a church we have been reading through the gospel of Mark. Right now we are in Mark 14 and as we are turning to today’s text let me share a small context.

The setting is right at the home of the high priest. Jesus has been arrested and is on trial. All of his disciples have abandoned him. Jesus is all alone as He is being insulted, accused, beaten and humiliated as He reveals His identity as the Son of God. And in the midst of that we have a passage on Peter that totally transforms his life! Let’s look at v 66-72.

I still remember how amazing the first week was after I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ. Everything was so great! I enjoyed fellowship with God – reading the Word and prayer. I had brand new desires to grow in holiness. I wanted to grow with other believers. But I quickly realized that I became more and more aware of the sin in my life and some sin patterns were repeated and frequent. I started going back to God asking for forgiveness.

 First time, second time, tenth time…by the time it reached the hundredth I began questioning if it was possible for me to lose my salvation. Surely God has lost patience by now. And that left me really insecure for some time because I thought it was up to me to keep my commitment to Jesus.  It was around that time – alongside other believers and a weekly bible study that I where my whole understanding of the gospel changed drastically. What is it that holds our relationship with Christ together? What happens when our best efforts and intentions fail in our relationship with Christ? Today’s passage helps us answer this:

  1. We are prone to be unfaithful to God

This incident of Peter denying Jesus is mentioned in all 4 gospels. We know that the gospel writer Mark was mentored by Peter, so the account in the gospel Mark is through the lens of Peter. Why would Peter mention such an embarrassing story? If we were to write an autobiography, we would probably exclude the bad and embarrassing stories about ourselves. Why mention this? I think the first reason is to show how we all are prone to be unfaithful to God. Peter, even though he was a key leader among the disciples of Jesus was unfaithful to God. We see that displayed in:

  1. False promises (v29-31):

29 Peter said to him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” 30 And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” 31 But he said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same.

Peter seemed quite confident that he will never deny Christ even to the point of death. Now we know that Peter is known for being impulsive. During the transfiguration, he sees Jesus standing in glory with Moses and Elijah and he tells Jesus that he’ll make three tents for each of them.

 We know he is impulsive but before we quickly make our judgments, let’s realize that he isn’t too different from us. He is a reflection of what goes on in our hearts. I’m sure he had the best intentions when Peter made the promise but his promise ultimately turned out to be false and empty.

How many of us have ever promised after a Sunday sermon – “I will do better next time. I will pray more from tomorrow onwards. I will spend more time in the Bible from tomorrow morning. I will cut off a particular sin pattern from my life”? I’ve done this myself.

 Even though we say we know the gospel, isn’t it true that our responses sometimes to a sermon on a Sunday morning is self-help? And what we don’t admit a lot of the times is that we make a lot of false promises to God. Even as we are singing some of the songs we do, do we make false promises? “I’m coming back to the heart of worship…it’s all about you…it’s all about you Jesus”. Is it really about Him? Even our best intended promises turn out to be false.

  • Fearful Heart

54 And Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. And he was sitting with the guards and warming himself at the fire. (v54)

In some verses earlier we see that guards were right next to Peter as he was being confronted by the servant girl. And Peter saw what happened to Jesus. He was beaten, spat at, humiliated and pronounced guilty of death.

Associating himself with Jesus would mean inviting the very same consequences. Even though he gave Jesus a very bold assurance a few verses earlier, when it came down to the actual moment he was overcome by fear. He wasn’t ready to be beaten, humiliated and to die for Jesus. 

In our current situations in life – be it at work or home or personal life – do we see ourselves more often than not operate out of fear or faith? Big question I know. But let’s ask ourselves – are we more likely to make choices and decisions in our lives based on fear of consequences and people or do we make choices out of faith in Christ?

  • Failing loyalty

67 and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” 68 But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.”

69 And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” 70 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.” 71 But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.”

In these three denials, we can see a failing loyalty to Christ. Peter was one of the closest people to Jesus. He was one of the three in the inner circle. He spent 3 ½ years with Jesus seeing Jesus do marvelous things for people & teach with authority & live an impeccable life. But at this very moment, when he was asked about being with Jesus – he disowned Jesus. He rejected knowing him.

He refused to accept any association with Jesus. That’s because it revealed what he truly valued and treasured in his heart. He had to chose between the idols in his heart and Jesus and he chose the idols. He chose himself over Jesus.

Have we ever seen this failing loyalty in our hearts? Calvin said that our heart is a factory of idols. We are regularly churning out more and more idols that are competing for the affections of our heart. And when do we see our idols? On a stressful day, what or whom do we turn to for relief? When we are sad and upset, what do we turn to comfort us? When we are bored and idle, what or whom do we turn to automatically? And if we are being absolutely honest, we’ll admit that we will see a failing loyalty. We don’t always say that Jesus is better.

The famous hymn “Come thy fount” has an interesting line in one of its verses which says “Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love”. What I’m trying to say is that we can’t rely on our promises, or our heart, or our loyalty to sustain and keep this relationship. Why? Because our promises are false, our hearts are fearful and our loyalty is failing.

 Whenever we come before the throne of God, we need to admit that we are prone to be unfaithful. Even our best intentions and our best efforts to keep up our commitment will end up in being unfaithful. Our position after listening to God’s Word cannot be “I will do better” but rather a humble position “I don’t know what’s going on in my heart. I know I’m prone to be unfaithful. Lord, help me!”

But if we are only left with this truth that we are prone to be unfaithful, we will be left in despair. But the best truth is that:

Christ still remains faithful towards us

27 And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ 28 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.”

Already in verses 27,28 along with Jesus’ prophecy on the denial and abandonment, He already spoke about meeting with them after He is raised up!! Even though we are prone to be unfaithful, Christ will still be faithful to us.

 Christ’s faithfulness is not based on our faithfulness. He will remain faithful irrespective because He cannot go against His character. And He upholds this relationship and commitment. But what does that look like tangibly in a relationship where I am prone to be unfaithful?

  • Christ desires repentance by revealing our sin

72 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. [j]

The purpose in Jesus telling Peter that he would deny him 3 times before the rooster crows twice was not to insult him or tell him “Aha…I told you so” or to condemn him. But the purpose was to draw Peter to repentance by revealing his sin.

Prior to this incident, Peter probably thought he was the most committed guy to Jesus. But this whole incident revealed the opposite because of the idols in his heart. Because Jesus treasures the relationship He has with us, He will always bring to light areas in our life which will need to be repented of.

And we see the repentance being reflected in the sorrow Peter showed over his sin. Imagine this… think about a close relationship that you have. Married people – think about the relationship with your spouse. Unmarried people – think about the relationship with someone in your family. If you’ve done something to offend them and deeply hurt them, wouldn’t you feel sorrowful over what you’ve done? You couldn’t just sit and be normal.

 When you know that you’ve hurt someone you love, it will grieve you. So even in our relationship with Christ, when the Holy Spirit brings to light areas of sin in our hearts, if we are truly genuinely repentant we will mourn over our sin. I’m not saying you need to manipulate your tears but respond as you would to any close relationship.

2 Cor 7: 9 says For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

  • Christ produces faithfulness by redeeming our lives

Few weeks after this very same incident, we see Peter boldly preaching on the Day of Pentecost before a large crowd. The Word says that they were cut to the heart. And they asked him “What must we do to be saved?” And Peter said to them “Repent and be baptized everyone of you in name of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins”. 

Sometime after that – Peter and John are called in by the Sanhedrin in Acts 4. These are powerful religious authorities.  They charge them to stop teaching in the name of Jesus. What do Peter and John say? “You judge for yourselves if it is right in the sight of God to listen to you or obey God for, we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard!”

What brought about such a drastic change? I think it was Peter realizing that His loving Savior died & rose again on the third Day for him even though he rejected and refused to associate with Him. Peter realized how Christ was faithful to Him despite His unfaithfulness. And that stirred up his heart in repentance. I hope you see the two sides of repentance: one is the mourning over sin the other is the turning away from sin – both being motivated by the unlimited kindness and faithfulness shown toward you.

Brothers and sisters, what is hope for all of us who see ourselves failing in our commitment? It’s not based on our intentions, our promises, our heart and emotions, our loyalty but it’s based on Christ’s faithfulness toward us.

 Do you want to truly repent today? Ask God to reveal your sin so that you can mourn over what offends God. And then ask God to fill your heart with so much love in what Christ has done so that you can turn away from unfaithfulness.

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