MATTHEW 26:69-75 -27:10 March 2009
TWO DISCIPLES WHO FAILED
This morning we look at two disciples who failed at the very time Jesus needed their support. Peter the disciple who denied Jesus and Judas the disciple who betrayed Jesus.
The reason for his failure, the record of his failure and the response to his failure.
The reason for his failure
To understand this we need to go back a few hours to when Jesus told His disciples that all of them would desert Him and Peter boldly said, “You are wrong Lord. The others might desert you by I will never desert you.”
1. He rejected the words of Jesus.
Peter would not accept what Jesus said to him. He literally told Jesus, “You are wrong Jesus. I know myself better than you. That warning doesn’t apply to me. It applies to these other guys. They might desert you but I would never do that.”
How many of us have read or heard the words of Jesus and thought, “That doesn’t apply to me. I don’t fit into that category. That applies to those people or that person but not to me.
Ill. How many have sat in church and elbowed their wife or husband when some point was made and even thought said, “I hope they are listening to that.”
We need to say, “Lord what are you saying to me.”
2. He trusted in his own strength.
He believed that he had what it took to handle any situation that came along and so He said to Jesus, “I will never deny you.” I have the determination and the inner strength to stand by you to the very end, even if it means I have to die with you.”
Big bold cliam!
As I have said before, human nature apart from the grace and power of God is one of the most unreliable, fallible, faulty things there is and if you put your confidence in that alone you are in for big disappointment.
Ill. Gordon Weekly believed he had what it took to build a big church and he did. He built up a church from 0 to 1,000 members. As the church grew he became more and more stressed out because he was constantly trying to keep the whole thing going. To relieve the stress he turned to pills and became addicted to them. Eventually he had to give up the ministry, his wife left him and he ended up staying that the YMCA. It wasn’t until a doctor said he was a no better off than the town drunk, it began to sink in. All along, he had thought he was strong and confident and could handle anything, now he was a hopeless wreck.
Gordon started along the road to recovery when he admitted he was powerless to control the drugs, and he gave himself completely over to God’s power. The Lord brought him through and now he ministers to broken people. He learned that without God’s grace and strength even the strongest of men are doomed to fail. At a service he preached: “No life on this earth finds the real, deep springs of communion with God until it has met adversity and, by that adversity, has been forced to a point that it is broken, utterly helpless before God.”
3. He didn’t feel he needed to pray
When Jesus asked Peter to watch and pray with Him in the garden Peter fell asleep. Peter felt he had the resources to handle whatever came along.
I mean he had lived close to Jesus for 3 years, witnessed His miracles, listened to His teaching, observed His example, he was even used to minister to others. He had experience on his side. There is a real danger in the Christian life to rely on your experience or your natural abilities when serving the Lord.
I remember a man telling a friend of mine that because he had been a Christian for a long time didn’t feel the same need to pray like he did when he was a younger Christian.
It doesn’t matter how long you have been a Christian or how far your have grown as believer, the spiritual battle never eases up. Satan is still just as strong, the sinful tendencies in your human nature are still just as weak and the pressures to conform to this godless society are just as powerful.
In fact I think that as you get older as a believer you really need to watch this one. It’s so easy to rely more on your knowledge and experience and less on the Lord and I have seen some very mature, longstanding believers fall in their latter years.
It is through prayerful dependence on God that we are strengthened and fortified to stand against the forces of evil that constantly seek to distract us and divert us from following Jesus. I find it hard to understand Christian people who go day after day without spending time with God in prayer and reading His Word. Those people fortify themselves physically with food before they venture out each day, many listen to the news or read the newspaper each morning to prepare yourself mentally for the world they will face – but so many believers go out each day into enemy occupied territory with no spiritual preparation or fortification and face the enemy unprepared and they wonder why they are so ineffective and crash when the pressure is on.
Peter felt he didn’t need to pray and when the test came he was unprepared, vulnerable and he crashed.
4. He acted independently of Jesus
When the enemies of Jesus came for Him in the garden, Peter took out his sword and cut off the ear of the High Priests servant. He took things into his own hands and acted independently of Jesus.
And that is what happens when you face situations relying on your own strength and without prayerful dependence on God. You end up doing what you think is oaky instead of doing what God is telling you.
The record of His failure
He kept his identity hidden.
When Peter entered the courtyard of the High Priest he tried to hide among the crowd. He didn’t want anyone to know he was associated with Jesus. He didn’t go up to Jesus and says, “I will stand by you no matter what happens.” He could have come forward as a witness for the defence, but he gave into the fear of man and kept quiet.
How many times have we done the same? When the opportunity came to stand up for Jesus we quietly hid in the crowd. We didn’t want to appear to be different, we didn’t want to be rejected or ridiculed so we kept quiet about our allegiance.
Ill. I shared with you last Sunday that God has spoken to me many times through Psalm 27:13 “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.” I have taken that as a promise of revival, but I have also prayed that God would give me greater courage and boldness to speak up for Jesus and then last Sunday I read the next verse
v14 Wait on the LORD; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the LORD!
He ended up denying Jesus.
Exactly as Jesus said, Peter denied Him 3 times before the rooster crowed.
Each time someone accused Peter of being with Jesus he strongly denied it even to the point of swearing by the Living God and saying, “May God strike me dead if I am lying.”
The response to his failure
And when Peter heard the rooster crow he remembered the words of Jesus and he went outside the courtyard and wept bitterly. The Greek word means with loud, uncontrollable sobbing.
Poor Peter, he started out with the best intentions, but he didn’t realise how strong the forces of darkness are and how weak and fallible human nature is without the grace and power of God.
We can’t face the enemy alone or in our own strength – fallen human nature is no match for Satan and forces of darkness. We need to acknowledge our weakness and throw ourselves constantly on the grace of God.
2 Corinthians 12:7-10. To keep me from becoming self-sufficient and proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. 8 Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. 9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
The reason for his failure, the record of his failure and the response to his failure.
The reason for his failure
The last time we looked at Judas we saw that the main cause of his failure was that he loved wealth more than he loved God.
As Jesus and his disciples travelled around teaching, preaching and healing, people would often give them monetary donations for their support. This was accepted practice for Jewish Rabbis and the NT teaches that it is to be the practice for those in the church who are set aside to preach and teach the Word of God.
Judas was the treasurer and he looked after the finances, but he also helped himself to the funds. Jesus knew about this and gave Judas plenty of opportunity to confess and deal with his problem – but he never did. The love of money and the desire for wealth became so important to Judas that in the end he was prepared to betray Jesus in order to get more money.
You see, when the love of money, the desire for wealth and material possessions gets hold of you, it becomes an obsession and you end up doing things you wouldn’t normally do in order to get more money. People who are obsessed with acquiring money and possessions are willing to sacrifice anything to get it – relationships, family, their moral and ethical values, their character, their spiritual life and even their eternal relationship with God. And that is why Jesus said, “What do you really gain if you acquire all the wealth in the world and then lose your own soul.”
Ill. A wealthy US businessman was so obsessed with making money he sacrificed every meaningful relationship he had and ended up a lonely bitter old man. No one attended his funeral. His 2 sons contacted the undertaker and told him they would pay for the funeral, but they wouldn’t be attending. “He had no time for us when he was alive, why should we be there for him now.”
Jesus spoke about the deceitfulness of riches. People believe that wealth and possessions will give them happiness, fulfilment and security, but it’s a lie. Because when you chase after money and wealth, you are never satisfied because you never feel you have enough and so you never feel secure.
Like J D Rockerfeller the multi-millionaire who was asked how much money would it take to satisfy him, “ Always a dollar more than I have now.” Which simply means I would never be satisfied.
It’s so true. Greed is never satisfied – it constantly wants more and bigger and better, and when it gets them it has to keep getting them – it’s a vicious circle.
In Hebrews 13:5 we read this important exhortation:
“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,
“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
1 Timothy 6:6 “Godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content. But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.
I was reflecting on verse 6 “Godliness with contentment is great wealth.” Do you know what brings the greatest joy and peace to a person’s heart – it’s when they consciously seek day by day, moment by moment to do what pleases God. Jesus said in John 15:10 “When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!”
Add to that contentment – being grateful to God for what you have and being satisfied with that.
Ill. I remember talking to a Christian businessman who had been very wealthy and had lost nearly everything he had through economic problems. He ended up living in a little rented house carrying out a very mundane kind of a job. I remember being quite touched by his attitude. “I really enjoyed the challenge of making a lot of money, but we are now really enjoying this simpler lifestyle without all the extra luxuries and we are definitely more consciously aware of our need to depend on the Lord.”
There wasn’t the hankering for the old wealth and comfort, there was genuine healthy contentment. Why? Because their real values and security were in God.
I think it is really sad that so many Christians in the west are aggressive and highly motivated when it comes to acquiring wealth and material possessions, but when it comes to spiritual things they are so slack and apathetic.
When Paul spoke about material things he said in Philippians 4:11-12, “I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have very little and what it is to have a lot. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.”
But when He spoke about spiritual things he said in Philippians 3:12 “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
The record of his failure
Like most people who make wealth their goal in life Judas believed that it would bring him happiness, security and fulfilment, but it was a lie he swallowed and when he saw the results of his greedy behaviour, he was seized with remorse and he went to the religious leaders and told them he had betrayed innocent blood.
They didn’t care, as I said the other week they weren’t interested in the truth. They were just so pleased they were getting rid of Jesus.
And so Judas took the money they had given to him and he went right into the inner sanctuary of the temple and threw the money down and went away and hanged himself.
The response to his failure
There was a vast difference between the behaviour of Peter and the behaviour of Judas. Although Peter let Jesus down, his intentions were good and he honestly believed he would stand by Jesus to the very end. He simply overestimated his fallen human nature and he failed.
Judas on the other hand had greedy, selfish intentions. His sin was deliberate, premeditated and he knew exactly what he was doing when he sold Jesus into the hands of His enemies. Judas planned to do what he did; Peter never intended to do what he did. He was caught off guard and fell.
When Peter failed he wept bitterly because he had let the person down he loved more than anyone else in the world. He truly repented of his behaviour.
When Judas saw the results of his actions, he didn’t go to Jesus and beg His forgiveness he tried to wriggle out of the responsibility and by taking the money back to the religious leaders he was saying, “You should never have given this money to me. Its your fault.”
But they said to him, “Don’t blame us for your actions. You are responsible for what you have done.” And Judas could not live himself anymore and went outside and hung himself.
The religious leaders knew they had condemned an innocent man and for that reason they could not accept the money back. They said it was blood money which means money paid to an assassin to kill someone and so they bought a field with it for burying foreigners thus fulfilling Old Testament prophecy.
Judas is an example of what can happen when we allow the love of money and greed to get hold of us. We can be among the followers of Jesus, exposed to the teaching of Jesus, see God working around us and yet become hardened and untouched by it all. When the love of money gets hold of us we will sacrifice anything to get hold of it, our moral and ethical values and even our relationship with Jesus. We may gain the material world and end up losing our soul. James said the love of wealth is the root of all kinds of evil.” Think of how much crime is linked to greed.
The best way to prevent the love of money and greed corrupting us is to go right against it and give. Every time we resist the temptation to hoard, grab and grasp wealth and choose to give we break the destructive power that greed wants to have over us.
The greatest example of that was Jesus, 2 Cor 8:9 “You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich.”