Thank you, Andrew, very kind words. And Christ is obviously the most compelling Person. When I look back over the 40 plus years of ministry at Grace Church, let’s see, we spent two years in the gospel of John looking at Christ, and then we spent eight years in the gospel of Matthew looking at Christ, and then we spent ten years in the gospel of Luke looking at Christ, then we spent another two years plus in the gospel of Mark looking at Christ. And I think I’m about ready to go back and do John all over again because I can’t let go of the subject. Spent a number of years in the book of Hebrews, which presents Christ as superior to everything and everyone. Spent awhile in Colossians, which does the same thing, and so it goes. Twice through the book of Revelation for a few years both times, and the glory of Christ, of course, comes through there.
He is the attraction of the Scripture. From Genesis to Revelation, it’s about Him. He’s the theme of all of it. That’s why He said on the road to Emmaus that it was about Him, that Moses and the Prophets and all the Holy Writings were written. There is no subject like Him. There is no person like Him. There is no theme like that of Christ.
So this is really a great privilege for me to be here. Fun to be with you, fun to be with some of my grandkids and others from Grace Church, and it’s a joy to meet some of you. How many of you haven’t been here before to the Regen Camp? Good. Welcome. We’re really glad to have you. Wow. That’s a large number of people. Wow. This is exciting and I know you’re going to be greatly blessed.
There’s something profoundly important about a condensed time of spiritual impact, not strung out with weeks in between – Sunday, and then a week, Sunday, and then a week, and maybe you throw in a Bible study in the middle. Something about the accumulated impact of the Word of God brought to bear upon your heart in this kind of environment, where God does some mighty things. I know that was true in my own life many, many moons ago, when I was your age, and had the same kind of experience that you’re having without the depth that you’re enjoying, I might add. So it’s a real privilege to be here.
It is also my greatest joy in the world to have the privilege of shepherding the flock at Grace Community Church. This is a privilege beyond all comprehension. I must be the most blessed pastor maybe who ever lived. That’s the way I view it. To have been given Grace Community Church as a place to serve. And here I am ministering to the third generation of people in that church. I ministered to some of your grandparents and I’m still here. People come, people go. I don’t. So I’m still here and delighted for that honor and that privilege to be here.
I want to talk to you tonight from Matthew 26. So if you have a Bible, you want to open it to Matthew 26. I’m glad we have some light in here so you can see what’s going on on the pages of Scripture. I’m going to do something I rarely do, and that is I’m just going fly through a passage. Matthew 26, by the way, is one of the longest chapters in the New Testament. It happens to have 75 verses and I’ve been known not to get past one word in a sermon. But we’re going to go flying through Matthew chapter 26, and we may even dabble a little bit in Matthew 27.
Now if you know the setting, you know you’re in the passion week of the Lord Jesus. This is the week in which He faces the cross, and dies, and then on the first day of the following week, He rises from the dead. And there are so many themes and so many incredible insights into the person of Jesus Christ that you can find during passion week, that’s why so much of the New Testament is devoted to that final week of His life. And we can look at a lot of different things and all of them would be instructive and helpful for us.
But I want us to see Christ through the eyes of a couple of people. I don’t want to take a direct look at Jesus. I want to take an indirect look at Him. I want us to look at Jesus through two men. This is a story about two men, and I’m just going to kind of walk you through the story of these two men. They appear dramatically in this 26th chapter. They are pulled out of the crowd. They stand out. Things happen around them, with them, and to them that are massive in their implications, massive.
These two men were both called by Jesus. They were called to follow Him, to become a learner, a disciple, a mathētēs, a student of Jesus. And they followed Him. And they followed Him from the moment that He called them until the end. They were there. They followed Jesus for years. It was a 24/7 deal. They walked together. They talked together. They slept side by side. They were itinerant. They moved from place to place and town to town and village to village for a period of three years inseparably, Jesus and these two men.
They both declared their complete devotion to Jesus. They so clearly affirmed their devotion to Jesus that they were believed by the most intimate friends of Jesus to be completely loyal to their Lord. Everybody assumed that their trust in Him, their faith in Him, their submission to Him, their devotion to Him was the real deal. They were trained by Jesus. They were trained how to face the world. They were given a worldview by Jesus. They were trained by Him to evaluate everything they saw, from the most simple elements of the material world to the most complex facets of religion. He was their sole Teacher. Not one of the men who traveled with Jesus ever taught. He was the only Teacher. Jesus’ little group didn’t have a faculty. In fact, for the most part, whenever any of the disciples said anything, it had to be corrected.
So they had one Teacher for three years. They were taught by precept, principle, truth, explanation, and by example, because everything He taught He modeled. They were taught truth, wisdom, error. They were taught about life, and death, and time, and eternity. They were taught the importance of the revelation of God, the will of God, and obedience to Him.
They saw the miracles that Jesus did. They saw them all. They saw them all virtually every day for three years. They saw Him give sight to blind people, hearing to deaf people, voices to mute people, legs to people who couldn’t walk. They saw Him raise people from the dead. They saw Him abruptly end funerals. They saw it all.
They heard Him answer every important theological question that could ever be asked, and His answers were always truthful, accurate, and complete. They were confronted by Jesus every day on the issue of sin. They were confronted by Jesus every day on the importance of salvation. They learned things pertaining to the kingdom of God. It even went so far that He delegated His miracle power to them, and they were able to demonstrate power over disease, power over demons. They went out and did miracles in His name. Not only that, He sent them out to preach about Him, and they went out, all of them – these two in particular – and they preached Jesus as Lord, Jesus as King and Messiah and Savior.
But during this final week, these two men who went through that experience both did something unimaginable, incomprehensible, unbelievable. Both of them betrayed Jesus. Both of them. They betrayed Him just before His death. One of them, in spite of his betrayal, is considered so honorable still that some of you are named after him. Do we have anybody here named Peter? Yeah. And let me tell you something. The other one, none of you are named after, nor do you know anyone who’s been named after. Do we have anybody here named Judas? Do we have anybody who has a dog named Judas? Or a pet rat named Judas?
Some of you are named after one of these men because he is so loved, and none of you are named after the other one because he is so universally hated and despised. One, you who love Christ will meet. You will. All of us who love Christ will meet one of them because that betrayer of Jesus Christ is in heaven. The other, only you who reject Christ may meet, because that betrayer is in hell. One of these two ended his life a suicide. He hanged himself. Didn’t do a very good job. The rope broke or the branch broke and he fell and his body exploded on the rocks below. That wasn’t the worst of it. He was then eternally banished to suffer forever in hell. The other preacher – and they were both preachers – the other preacher ended his life not as a suicide, but as a saint. He ended his life being crucified upside down because he would not again deny Jesus Christ. One eternally banished, the other eternally blessed.
And these two lived side by side, 24/7, for a period of three years, and they had the very identical experience and ended up as far as the east is from the west, infinitely and extremely separated forever. One of them, Peter, has his name at the head of the four lists of apostles in the New Testament. The other one, Judas, has his name at the bottom. They are the top and the bottom, but they had the same experience with the same person. They even went so far as both of them the same week, within hours of each other, to betray Jesus. And yet, one of them is highly honored in heaven, and the other is highly dishonored in hell.
Let me tell you something else about them. Both were sinners and they knew it. Both were sinners and they knew it. Both felt guilty for what they had done. Both felt guilt that was so powerful and so overwhelming that it affected them emotionally and they lost control. Both experienced overwhelming guilt. Another parallel, both of them, both of them, were overtaken by Satan himself to be his unholy agent. Both of them.
They’re so similar. How did they end up so differently? What made the difference? It wasn’t what they did. It wasn’t what people thought about them. It wasn’t on the outside. Let me put it as simply as I can put it. What made the difference between Judas and Peter was how they felt about Jesus Christ, how they felt about Jesus Christ.
Now the story of both of them is in Matthew 26. Let’s look at the story and let it unfold. Verse 1. “When Jesus had finished all these words, - ” and these words refer to Matthew 24 and 25, marvelous, marvelous sermon that Jesus gave to the disciples on the slope of the Mount of Olives, looking back at the city of Jerusalem, viewing the temple at sunset. It was a message about His return, His second coming. When He had finished all this, “He said to His disciples, ‘You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man is to be handed over for crucifixion.’ ”
How did they know that? Why did He say, “You know that”? How did they know that? Because He had been telling them that. If you go back to Matthew chapter 16, all the way back 10 chapters, and verse 21, you will find that it says there that Jesus repeatedly told them He was going to die. He gave them the details. He was going to be betrayed. He was going to be arrested by the leaders of Israel, the chief priests and scribes and the elders. And He told them the details about what they were going to do to Him. They were going to beat Him. They were going to scourge Him. They were going to abuse Him. And then they were going to nail Him to a cross. They had been told that all along. And Jesus said, “Now it is imminent. It’s about to happen.”
And while He is saying that, verses 3 to 5 tell us, “the chief priests and the elders of the people - ” as Jesus had said “ - were gathering together; and plotting to seize Him by stealth and kill Him.” They’re wanting to somehow avoid a riot if they could, because He was so popular. Now let’s drop down to verse 6, and the scene begins to unfold, and the first character we’re going to talk about is Judas. Judas comes out of the crowd here in the narrative.
“when Jesus was in Bethany, - ” which is just a little ways to the east over the top of the hill there, just east that we know as the Mount of Olives, just down the backside of the Mount of Olives, a couple of miles east of Jerusalem, little town of Bethany, where Lazarus and his family lived, and another follower of Jesus, a man named Simon the leper. So they went to the house.
“A woman came to Him with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume, and poured it on His head as He reclined at the table.” Jesus is sitting there having dinner, and as a gesture of love and affection toward Jesus, this woman breaks the neck of this very, very expensive perfume. There have been lots of discussions about how expensive it was. Suffice it to say it would be a fortune. It might be a year or several years’ wages bound up in the value of that perfume, and she lavishly dumps it on the head of Jesus as He’s sitting there eating as a gesture of affection.
Verse 8 says, “the disciples were indignant when they saw this, and said, ‘Why this waste?’ ” Why this waste? And by the way, it says the disciples said that, but let’s get specific. According to the 12th chapter of John and the 4th verse, it was actually Judas. It was actually Judas. Why are you wasting that? “For this perfume might have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor.” Judas is the protester, and this is the first time we begin to see his character unfold.
The disciples have no suspicion of Judas. As far as they all know, including Peter, he is one of them in every sense. He is a miracle worker. He is a preacher of Jesus. He is a loyal, faithful follower. In fact, he’s so highly trusted that they made him treasurer. And believe me, he did some manipulating to get the job. He put all the money that they had, which wasn’t a lot, but the assumption was that it could grow and it could be more as things developed. Judas put himself in a position to be chosen because of his lack of mistrust and because of the strong sense of trust that they had as the treasurer for the group. So he carried the money.
He is now beginning to panic because Jesus is talking about his death again. Down in verse 12, he makes a comment that this woman “poured the perfume on My body, to prepare Me for burial.” And the knife goes into Judas again because Judas joined this group out of greed. He joined out of avarice. He joined out of ambition. He joined to become powerful and wealthy and be a player in the kingdom. Played his cards close to the vest, even better than James and John did, who sent their mother to see if she could sort of finagle positions on the right and left hand of Jesus in the kingdom.
Judas was more coy than that, a little more clever, a little more reserved than that. But his game was the same game. He was in it for his own gain and his own prestige, his own promotion, his own wealth. And as things began to unravel and go more toward the death of Jesus, the panic set in and three years of his life up to this point had been wasted and all he had was a small bag of money and this perfume could have added to the bag, and at least when he got out, he would have a little bit to show for his wasted three years.
That’s Judas. He’s a materialist. He’s a materialist. He’s a worldly guy. His hopes are smashed and dashed. Horrible disappointment sets in. In panic, he’s got to do something to change his fortune. Go to verse 14, and what does he do?
“One of the twelve, - ” he’s introduced like that repeatedly, one of the twelve, one of the twelve, just to deepen the darkness of his deeds “ - named Judas Iscariot, - ” Iscariot means “from Carioth.” Carioth was a village in Israel. He was the only non-Galilean. Carioth was a village in the south. Galilee in the north. He’s an alien. He’s a stranger. And that worked for Judas because nobody knew his background. Nobody knew his family. Nobody knew anything about him. And he slid in there secretly, you might say, with no real history that anybody knew. He pulled off his hypocrisy notably. And now it’s all starting to unravel.
So he “went to the chief priests. He said ‘What are you willing to give me to betray Him to you?’ ” In other words, to tell you where He is in a secret setting so you don’t have to arrest Him when He’s standing in front of massive crowds. How much money will you give me if I lead you Him in the dark where no one will know what you’re doing? How much is He worth? “And they weighed out thirty pieces of silver to him.”
And according to Exodus 21:32, that’s the price of a slave. That was the price of the slave. That was the lowliest of humanity, people that you bought and sold you paid 30 pieces of silver for. The word “betray” is a shocking word. This is the first time we get any indication that this is Judas’ attitude. He’s here uncovered for us.
We pick up the story a little bit further. Verse 17, Jesus gets together with his disciples to have the passover. They come together, they’re reclining at the table. Go down to verse 20, ready to eat the passover. “As they were eating, He said, ‘Truly I say to you that one of you will betray Me.’ ” Now the word “betray” had already appeared in the text of Matthew, but the disciples had never heard it. “One of you will betray Me”? They had no clue who that might be. “Being deeply grieved, they each one began to say to Him, ‘Surely not I, Lord?’ ” They thought it more likely to be themselves, knowing their own sinfulness than any of the others.
“And he answered, ‘He who dipped his hand with Me in the bowl is the one who will betray Me.’ ” In other words, the one I have sitting beside me who was dipping into the same bowl I’m dipping into. They would take bread and they would dip it into a mix, and then they would eat the bread. And if you sat next to Jesus at the table, you were the honored guest. And Jesus put him in a place to be an honored guest may be part of it, perhaps more likely that Judas constantly sought that place to continue to gain the position he needed to get what he wanted.
Verse 24, Jesus says, “The Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.” It’s better not to exist than to be Judas. It’s better not to exist than to go to hell forever. “And Judas, who was betraying Him, said, ‘Surely it is not I, Rabbi?’ ” hoping that Jesus didn’t know. “Jesus said to him, ‘You have said it yourself.’ ”
Go down to verse 30, the betrayer is exposed. They sing a hymn after they leave for the Mount of Olives. By that time, Judas is gone. Jesus sent him away. The other writers tell us that he dismissed Judas, John tell us that in his gospel. Sent Judas away and then had the passover. Judas takes off to set up the betrayal. And they go to the Mount of Olives together, the disciples. Let’s skip the part about them in the Mount of Olives and go all the way over to verse 45.
You remember what happened when they went into the Mount of Olives? They went there to do what? Pray. What did they end up doing? Sleeping. And He comes to them in verse 45 and says, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners.” It’s going on right now. He knows everything because He is God. “Get up, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!”
“And while He was still speaking, - ” verse 47 “ - behold, Judas, one of the twelve, came up - ” into the garden, into the dark, after midnight, in the middle of the night “ - with a large crowd - ” hundreds, an entourage of Roman soldiers, temple police, scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees “ - swords, clubs. Now he who was betraying Him gave them a sign, saying, ‘Whomever I kiss, He is the one; seize Him.’ Immediately Judas went to Jesus and said, ‘Hail, Rabbi!’ and kept on kissing Him.” Kept on kissing Him. “And Jesus said to him, ‘Friend, - ” that’s not the usual Greek word for “friend,” associate, comrade “ - do what you have come for.’ Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and seized Him.”
Jesus is hauled off to a trial. In the meantime, we follow the story of Judas and it is one sad story. Go down to chapter 27. Judas sneaks off into the night with the filthy money in his hand and no doubt the rest of the money that belonged to the little group of itinerant preachers. Verse 1 of 27, “when morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people conferred together against Jesus to put Him to death; they bound Him, and led Him away and delivered Him to Pilate the governor.
“Then when Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, ‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.’ But they said, ‘What is that to us? See to that yourself!’ ” We don’t care. “And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself. So the chief priests took the pieces of silver and said, ‘It is not lawful to put them into the temple treasury, since it is the price of blood.’ ” All of a sudden they have become righteous.
“And they conferred together and with the money bought the Potter’s Field as a burial place for strangers, and that’s still called the Field of Blood to this day. This then is that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet being fulfilled: ‘and they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of the one whose price has been set by the sons of Israel; gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me.’ ” The Old Testament had prophesied that in the prophets, actually specifically in Zechariah.
So how does Judas end up? He ends up as a horrible disaster. I think the ultimate disaster in all of human history, all of human history. How did that happen? John 13:2 says, “During supper, the devil already putting into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him,” He was available for the devil. The devil put it in his heart to betray Jesus. And after he had eaten that first morsel in the meal, before they actually celebrated the passover in its completion, Jesus looks at Satan and says, “What you do, do quickly.” And John writes, “Satan then entered into him.”
Way back in the 6th chapter of John in the 70th verse, Jesus said this about his 12 disciples, “one of you is a devil,” a false accuser. One of you is a fake. One of you is a phony. They had no idea who it was. They could never figure it out. Is this not the greatest story of tragedy in human history because of his privilege? Only 12 people had the privilege. Is he not the ultimate in wasted opportunity, wasted privilege?
A materialist, a money lover, greedy, marked by avarice, selfish, he loved himself too much. He loved money too much. He rejected truth too easily. He resented Jesus too strongly. And he did all of that in the most convincing environment possible with a constant barrage of divine power exploding around him, full demonstration of deity every single day and night. And he was catapulted into hell.
Alongside the story of Judas is the story of Peter. Let’s go back to the beginning of chapter 26 again and let’s pick up the story of the first name in the list. This is the familiar and beloved Peter. We can go back and pick it up at verse 30. After the passover was finished, “they went out to the Mount of Olives.”
“Then Jesus said to them, ‘you will all fall away because of me this night, - ” you’ll all be offended “ - for it is written, - ” Zechariah 13:7 “ - “I will strike down the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered.” But after I have been raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.’ ” Here’s where Peter rises out of the group. And as we heard Judas speak for the first time, we now hear Peter.
He says this. “Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fail you.” Never. I don’t know about the rest of these guys. Not me. Never. “Jesus said to him, ‘Truly I say to you that this very night, before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.’ ” Mark adds that Jesus actually said, “Before the rooster crows twice you will deny me three times.” “Peter said, ‘Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You.’ And all the rest of the disciples said the same thing.”
Well, we appreciate Peter’s zeal. We’re grateful that Peter felt bold, that he felt confident, but that’s really not how it worked out. The cock crow was 3:00 AM. Pick up the story in verse 69, toward the end of the chapter. “Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard, - ” what courtyard? The courtyard of the high priest. Why is he there? Because Jesus is on trial inside the high priest’s house. Peter is hanging on the fringe, sitting in the courtyard. “A servant-girl came to him and said, ‘You too were with Jesus the Galilean.’ ” And here comes Peter’s betrayal. “He denied it before them all, saying, ‘I do not know what you are talking about.’ ” Boy, that’s an absolute lie. That’s a self-protective, self-preserving lie. So he shuffled off to the gateway, a little further from the flame so he couldn’t be seen perhaps as readily.
Another girl comes along, “servant-girl saw him and said to those who were there, ‘This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.’ ” Now he amps it up a little bit. “And again he denied it with an oath, - ” he swore “ ‘I do not know the man.’ ” You know what an oath is? You pronounce a curse on yourself if you’re lying. So he lied and compounded his lie by pronouncing a curse upon himself if he was lying. And this is adamant betrayal.
“A little later - ” verse 73 “ - the bystanders came up and said to Peter, ‘Surely you too are one of them; for even the way you talk gives you away.’ ” You have a Galilean accent. “Then he began to curse and swear, - ” Peter cursing and swearing? “ - ‘I do not know the man!’ And immediately a rooster crowed.” So what did Peter do? Go out and hang himself? Did he commit suicide? Did the same thing Judas did, just didn’t do it for money, did it for self-preservation. Same motive, selfish.
Verse 75, “Peter remembered the word which Jesus had said, - ” well, Jesus predicted Judas’ betrayal. Jesus said he would do that. He said, “You’re the man. You’re going to do it. Go do it.” Peter remembered that Jesus has predicted the same thing. “ ‘Before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.’ ” But he didn’t go kill himself. What did he do? “He went out and - ” what? “ - he went out and wept bitterly.” He went out and wept bitterly.
Something happened to Peter before he went out and wept bitterly. Just one moment happened and it’s recorded in Luke 22:61, and this is what it says. “And the Lord turned and looked at Peter.” He turned and looked at Peter and their eyes met, and Peter was devastated. He was shattered. He was destroyed and he went out and wept bitterly.
What’s the end of the story about Peter? He didn’t end up a suicide, he ended up a saint. He didn’t immediately die. He became the great preacher of the first 12 chapters of the book of Acts. So he became the most dominating preacher in the earliest history of the church. In the first 12 chapters of Acts, Peter and John are together and John never opens his mouth. He never preached a sermon. Not one. Not one recorded in the book of Acts. Peter preached all of them. Great preacher. He was restored in the Sea of Galilee, John 21. Jesus restored him three times, once for each denial, said, “Feed my sheep. Feed my sheep. Feed my sheep.”
What was the difference? What was the difference in a suicide and a saint? Two men, same group, same experience, same betrayal, same remorse, same sadness, same sorrow. Now let me give you something that you can kind of think about. Guilt – listen – guilt is not enough to make the sinner repent. Guilt is not enough to make the sinner repent. Guilt will make a sinner feel bad. Guilt will make a sinner cry. Guilt will make a sinner weep bitterly. Guilt may make a sinner take the elements of his iniquity and throw them away. Sin may make a sinner go back and try to undo what he did. Sin may even make a sinner kill himself. But sin won’t make a sinner repent. The knowledge of sin, feeling bad about sin, feeling guilty about sin, feeling so guilty you weep, feeling so guilty you hang yourself, that is not enough. That is not enough.
What makes a sinner repent? It’s a very simple answer. Love for Christ. Did you sing that song? “More love to thee, O Christ. More love to thee.” That’s what makes a sinner repent. It’s not the knowledge of his sin. It’s not the horror of his sin. It’s not the pain of his sin. It’s not the guilt of his sin. It’s not the remorse for his sin that makes the sinner repent. It’s love for Christ. People kill themselves out of the pain of their sins. They don’t necessarily repent. The issue is loving Christ, and that’s where Judas and Peter were in two different worlds.
Judas resented Jesus, saw Jesus as a means to an end, and Peter loved Jesus. Judas could go into the garden, get right up in the face of Jesus, put his arms around Him and kiss Him repeatedly on the cheek and feel no love. And Peter could see Jesus at a distance, catch His eye, and be overwhelmed with love for Him. The difference between Judas and Peter was not in what they knew. It wasn’t in what they experienced. It wasn’t in what they confessed or professed. It was in how they felt about Jesus Christ.
All genuine repentance and salvation is based on being overwhelmed with love for Christ. How you feel about Jesus will determine your heaven. Church is still full of Judases. You can’t tell them apart from the rest. Some of you are here, some Judas types are here and the people around you don’t know it because you do what they do and you say what they say. But they love the Lord Jesus and you don’t. And that’s the issue.
First Corinthians 16:22 says, “if any man loves not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be damned.” It’s about loving Christ. Loving Him when you sing those songs about His atoning work and the salvation He provides and all the promises that are yeah and amen in Him. And your heart fills with love and you sing from the depths of your heart with gratitude. That’s the love that is indicative of a true believer.
But that really isn’t the only thing I want to say to you tonight. The other compelling question in this passage in the last couple of minutes is this. How in the world if you love Christ can you end up doing what Peter did? How can that happen? If I say I love Christ and if Peter truly loved Christ, how could he do that? Did he love Christ? GO back to John 21 in your mind. Jesus says to Peter, “Do you love me?” Peter says, “Lord, I love you.” He says a second time, “Do you love me?” Peter says, “Yes, Lord, I love you.” He says the third time - and Peter’s heart is broken because He asks him the third time - and that time he says, “Lord, you know my heart. You know I love you. You know I love you.” Peter really loved Him. And he belonged to Him.
How can someone who loves Christ do that? Well, let me just take you back through the story of Peter just quickly and give you four things to think about. A believer who really loves Christ is in spiritual danger, number one, if he boasts too much, if he boasts too much. “All may fall away - ” verse 33 “ - because of You, I will never fall away.” Don’t overestimate your power. He boasted too much. Be humble. Be fearful. Dread your own weakness. Be fearful of your own weakness. He boasted too much.
Second thing, he prayed too little. He was taken into the Mount of Olives for a prayer meeting with Jesus and he slept through the whole thing. When Jesus went in deeper to the garden to pray, came out, they were all asleep. He told them to stay and watch with Me, verse 38, “watch with Me.” Verse 40, He found them asleep. He says again, “Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, the flesh is weak.” He goes away a second time, comes back, verse 43, they’re sleeping again. Verse 44, third time, same thing.
Boasted too much, prayed too little. Any of us as believers can fall into such a horrible situation where we deny Christ, betray Christ, the way that Peter did if we put too much confidence in the flesh and if we minimize the importance of spiritual dependence in prayer.
There’s a third thing that characterized Peter. He acted too fast. Verse 51 in the garden, he grabbed his sword and whacked off the ear of the servant of the high priest. He wasn’t going for his ear. He was going for his head. The guy ducked and lost an ear. Jesus said, “Put your sword away. If I want, I can have more than 12 legions of angels here. I don’t need you.” He boasted too much. He prayed too little. He acted too fast.
And I guess you could say finally he was sitting outside in the courtyard over against the fire, and we could say that he followed too far. Where should he have been? I think he should have been inside the house of the high priest. I think he should have been standing next to the Lord Jesus defending Him. He boasted too much. He prayed too little. He acted too fast. He followed too far.
But why did he survive? He survived because he belonged to the Lord. He loved the Lord. He truly loved the Lord. And the testimony of Jesus is this in Luke 22. “Simon, Simon, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” I have prayed for you. Why did the Lord pray for Peter? Because the Lord was Peter’s savior, Peter’s redeemer. He belonged to Him. The Lord cares for His own, John 17. High priestly prayer. Prays for His own.
Judas didn’t belong to Him. Judas didn’t love Him. Judas had no relationship with Him. Christ had no relationship with Judas and no commitment to protect him.
As you think about beholding the Lamb this week, the first thing that you’ll want to think about is whether or not you’re genuine. Two disciples, two preachers, two healers, two followers of Jesus, two men indistinguishable to their most intimate friends. One a suicide that goes to hell, the other a saint who goes to heaven. Both betray Jesus in ugly public ways. Both of them become agents for Satan. What makes the difference? How they feel about Christ. The greatest protection you have, the greatest reality of your salvation, the greatest proof that you belong to Him is your love for Him, your love for Him.
Judas was a materialist, a lover of money, a lover of self. He resented Jesus. A thief, a fake. Peter was the real deal. The difference between a Christian and a non-Christian is not works, it’s loving Christ. That’s the issue. It takes us back to the Old Testament. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” Judas needed Jesus to help him reach his sinful ambitions. Peter needed Jesus to help him escape his sinful ambitions.
Ask yourself where you are, and when you know where you are and that you truly belong to Christ, be confident that He prays for you and secures you, and protect yourself against denying Christ, or being ashamed of Christ, or betraying Christ, or making sure you don’t follow the path of Peter, who boasted too much, prayed too little, followed too far.
Father, we thank You for our time tonight in Your Word. We learn so much from the experience of others. We don’t want to be acting hastily like Peter did. We don’t want to be overestimating our abilities. We don’t want to be so confident in ourselves that we shirk the necessary means of grace and consistent prayer. We don’t want to play on the edges of the world and follow Christ at a distance.
May we follow close. May we humbly understand our own weakness and the potential for disaster that lurks all the time. May we strengthen ourselves with prayer and act only patiently and when we know we’re acting in Your will. And may You be honored in the lives of these young people. May there come from this conference even a new commitment to loving our precious Savior.
We love you, Lord Jesus. We have sung it and we know that You expect that song to come from genuine hearts. If there are any for whom there has been hypocrisy without the true love for Christ, would You do a mighty work of grace in their hearts and turn them from the love of self to the love of the Savior. Do that even now, we pray. For Your glory, in Christ’s name. Amen.