THE HOUR OF DENIAL
Luke 22: 56-62 - "But a certain maid beheld him as he sat
by the fire, and earnestly looked upon him, and said, This man was also with
him. and he denied him saying, Woman, I know him not. And after a
little while another saw him, and said, Thou art also of them. And
Peter said, Man, I am not. And about the space of one hour after
another confidently affirming, saying, of a truth this fellow also was with
him: for he is a Galilean. And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou
saith. And immediately, while he yet spoke, the cock crew. And
the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word
of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny
me three times. And Peter went out, and wept bitterly."
The faces and features of
animals are, in general, expressionless. We can, however, interpret certain
expressions of animals, such as fear, hatred, love, hunger etc. we all know
that, when the fangs of a dog or bared, there is danger for us. The look of
an animal can speak to us in a limited way.
But a human being can often
say things with certain facial expressions that cannot even be put into
words. The face can express surprise, intelligence, joy, sadness, disgust,
disdain, reproof, shame, hurt feelings, and many other things. We can
speak, as it were, with our face. Looks often speak louder than words.
All of us can interpret the
looks of another human being. So could the disciple Peter. In the Palace
of Caiaphas two people looked at Peter. Their facial expressions spoke
volumes. This will become more clear to us when we learn tonight about;
1. A Look Caused the
Peter was warming himself by
the fire at night in the courtyard of the high priest's palace. A certain
maid saw Peter as the fire lit up his face. She had a very sharp eye and a
keen memory. She looked earnestly at Peter. Suddenly she recognized him as
one of Jesusí disciples, whom she had perhaps seen in Jesusí Company. With
recognition came a look. What a look of disdain that maid gave Peter! That
look spoke volumes: "so you are connected with the pretender and deceiver of
people. You fool, you and your religion. We have the upper hand now; soon
your cause will vanish from the earth." That look of contempt from this
maiden burned into the heart and soul of Peter and was harder for him to
bear than to face an army. With recognition and a haughty look when a
pitiless tongue. She simply could not contain herself, nor keep Peter's
secret. "This man was also with him," she cried out to all who were
nearby. She took great pleasure in be training and exposing Peter before
for all her people.
The eighth Commandment is
explained by Luther as follows: "We should fear and love of God, that we do
not deceitfully betray our neighbor." This commandment of God meant little
or nothing to the maid. There was no pity for a poor, forlorn disciple
whose cause seemed to be collapsing. She was delighted to add to her look
of disdain words of defeating contempt, "this man was also with him." In
other words, "Look at this object of dejection and fear, did you ever see
anything more contemptible? He followed that pretender and deceiver of the
people: he was with him: he is just as much to blame as the rest."
Poor Peter! He was dejected,
miserable, alone. He was greatly shocked at the turn of events. He had
never expected the Messiah to be arrested, neither could he entertain the
thought that Jesus would be put to death on a cross. "All ye shall be
offended," Jesus had said. Peter had not believe these words because he had
not understood them. Peter still stood as he did in Matthew 16:21 - 23.
When Jesus told His disciples that He must suffer and die, Peter rebuked
Jesus for saying such things. Peter and the other disciples had expected an
earthly kingdom from the Messiah. They had been taught that from
childhood. Jesus had repeatedly told the disciples of His sufferings and
death, if they never fully realized what He was saying. As Peter sat in
front of that fire, the Lord's words must have come back to his confused
Peter had been very earnest
when he told Jesus, "if I should die with thee, I will not deny thee." This
was a wonderful statement on the part of Peter which reveals his great love
for his Master. Every true Christian should be willing and ready to repeat
it. Peters trouble was his self trust. "Pride goeth before a fall." What
Peter meant was this: "Yes, Lord, others may be cowards and weaklings;
others may deny Thee, but not I. I am different; I have a strong, heroic
faith that will not falter. I have absolute confidence in myself."
One must admire the man's
courage. In the Garden of Gethsemane, against that whole mob of armed
people who came out to capture Jesus, Peter drew out his sword and was
willing to pay the supreme price for being a disciple of the Lord. He would
have fought for Jesus until he was cut down. Jesus made him put away the
sword and thereby saved his life. Peter never knew how close he was to
death at that moment.
We now come to a surprising
turn of events. Peter was sitting before a fire of coals. A maid was
earnestly looking at him, and the light of recognition was shining in her
eyes. Instinctively Peter shrank into the shadows, but he was too late; she
had recognized him. Ironically enough, Peter was an absolutely no danger at
all. Suppose he would have admitted being a disciple, what then? The worst
that he could suffer would be the content and ridicule of the people around
the fire. Yet Peter withered before the maid. Before he could think, he
was saying, "Woman, I know him not." In the hour of denial a look caused it
all, a look by a maid! Not a sword pointed at his breast, nor horrible
tortures facing him, but just a look of disdain caused Peter to renounce his
discipleship. What an unexpected turn of events! Peter was really ashamed
of Jesus now. There was Jesus bound, and at the mercy of the rulers. This
whole idea of Jesusí kingdom did not seem right to Peter's confused mine.
"All ye shall be offended because of me this night," said Jesus. Peter was
offended, and fell from faith, because of the humiliation of his Master, and
because of a scornful look.
The first denial seems to be
a simple statement that he is not a disciple. In the second denial he added
an oath to the simple statement to make it more convincing. In the third
denial he added to the simple statement a solemn wish to be accursed if you
are lying. Again the aim was to convince his hearers. Each time it was
easier to repeat the sin and to add more sin to it. So, above the clamor
and noise of the people and soldiers and crowing cock, you can hear the
oaths and curses of Peter denying his Lord.
We should be warned by
Peter's downfall. Dear friends, how often do we not hear members of
churches say, "I will never give up my church. Others may and do fall away,
but not I." Yet in a little while they have lost interest in the Savior and
His Word. It all depends upon the attitude you have and how you say a
thing. If you say, "I'll always be a Christian and will never fall away
from Christ because I have such strong faith," then you are making the same
mistake which Peter made. God is not pleased with such thoughts and
attitudes. But when we say, "I hope and pray that the Lord will give me His
Holy Spirit so that I fall not from faith; I am weak, Oh Lord, and put my
trust in Thee alone to keep me and grace," then we are speaking God-pleasing
How many times do not our
members agree with outsiders, simply because they are ashamed to stand up
for the truth, or are afraid to be given a look of pity and scorn! When
people give them a look of disdain, they wilt, as Peter did. How many of
our people are ashamed of their church when others ridicule them for
belonging to a strict church that adheres to the Word of God alone! Do not
give Peter a look of contempt and superiority, my friends, if you are no
different toward your church and your Lord.
A look can cause a great deal
of damage and heartache in the world. A look -- the look of a maid --
brought about Peter's denial. But a look can have a different effect upon a
person. Someone else also looked upon Peter as he sat in front of that fire
of coals. Let us consider that second look to learn how:
II. A Look Caused
"And the Lord turned and
looked on Peter." Jesus was led past the fire and past Peter. He had
predicted that Peter would deny Him, as we read in Matthew 26:34, "that this
night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me three times." His
omniscient eye took in the whole situation and saw exactly what had
happened. Christ is the all-knowing God, even in His state of humiliation.
What a beautiful truth is here painted before our very eyes!
Jesus was facing an ordeal
like of which no human being before or since has ever had to face. Yet
Jesus did not say or think, "I have enough troubles of my own without
bothering about that faltering and denying disciple." Nor did the Lord
think, "I warn him about this very thing. If he will not listen, then let
him go the way of Judas." On the contrary, He turned and looked at Peter,
and His looks said, "I saw it all, Peter; I know what happened. Remember, I
told you." Little wonder that Peter, after the Resurrection, said to Jesus,
"Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee." Peter
learned by personal experience that his Lord knew all things and could read
the heart and mind.
The look that Jesus gave
Peter was also one of pain. "Peter, you did not consider that you are
hurting Me, your Lord and Master, when he denied Me to save your own self.
You have almost joined the ranks of My tormentors because you denied Me and
were ashamed of Me."
That look of Jesus pricked
Peter's conscience and his memory. We can imagine Peter thinking, "Oh, how
sure I was of myself, how certain I was that nothing could shake me. How
frail and weak I am! How could I deny Him who always showed me only love?
What a horrible thing I have done!"
But, above all, Jesusí look
was a look of love. There was no anger in His face. Nor does the look
express an icy difference, as if to say, "All right, Peter, you want it that
way in spite of your warnings; so be it. You do not know Me; you do not
want Me; you are ashamed of Me." But not Jesus, He gave Peter the look of
love. The same the heart that pleaded for the forgiveness of His enemies;
the same heart full of warm love that later accepted the dying thief on the
cross; the same loving heart that had pity on His weeping mother and placed
her in John's care; the same heart overflowing with love which caused Him to
leave His Father's throne and glory in heaven to come into this world, to
suffer and die for all men -- that same loving heart now brought to the
Savior's face a look so full of love and tenderness that it melted Peter's
"The Lord turned and looked
on Peter." That look saved Peter. It spoke of pardon and forgiveness.
It's saved him from despairing, as Judas did. Perhaps Peter had not seen
too much wrong in his denial, but this look of the Lord exposed his sin in
all its horror. Peter was now sure than ever that Jesus was the Christ, the
Son of the Living God, who was to come into the world. A look brought Peter
to the brink of the abyss of hell, and a look suddenly recalled him and
"And Peter went out and wept
bitterly." Tears alone can never wash away our sins. We sing, "Could my
tears forever flow, All for sin could not atone." But tears shed in true
repentance and sorrow over sin, in the knowledge that the love and
compassion of Christ alone washes away all sin -- such tears always find
real forgiveness, even forgiveness of a denial. Although Peterís sin must
have cut him to the quick every time he thought about it, that look of love
from the Savior sustained him and kept him from despair.
Jesus continued to show His
love for Peter after the Resurrection. "Go tell the disciples and Peter,"
were His instructions to the women on Easter morning. It was as though He
were saying, "Peter, see, I still love you. I meant that look of love which
I gave you any hour of denial." When Peter sank on the water, Jesus gave
him a helping hand; when Peter sank by a look of contempt, Jesus gave him a
helping look of love. That look of love is still more remarkable when we
consider that it took place while Jesus was being tried, marked, spit on,
buffeted, condemned, and about to be crucified and to suffer the torments of
the damned in hell for the sins of the world. Such love for a fallen sinner
is far beyond our comprehension. But if it was Jesusí love for poor sinners
which caused Him to come into the world to redeem us, than the love He
showed to Peter seems a little more understandable.
Friends, if any has fallen or
denied the Lord, there is still hope. Jesus is always ready to take you
back. "When Thou see me waver, With a look recall," must ever be our
prayer. Through some father or mother or wife or friend Jesus is still
giving us a look of love. May the Savior look at us again with love and
grace and forgiveness, and made that looks sustain us in the hour of trial
Peter, any hour of prayer you
slept. You missed one of the holiest hours in all the world. Now in the
hour of denial you were weak and ashamed to acknowledge Jesus as your Lord
May we all be worn by Peter,
and let us not make the same mistakes he did. Instead of saying, "I will
never leave Thee," let us rather say, "Lord, give me Thy Holy Spirit that I
may faithfully be Thy witness and confess You unashamed before men. And, Oh
Lord, if I fall, remember me in love as Thou did Peter, and recall me with
Thy look of love." Amen.
Oh Lord Jesus, we must bow our
heads in shame when we sink back over our past lives, remembering how often
we have denied You in thought, word, and deed. We are no better than Peter
in this respect, and we are deeply grieved by our perverse nature, to think
that we should ever be ashamed of You, oh wonderful Savior. Look upon us
with a look of love and pity and forgiveness as Thou did look upon Peter.
Maybe compassion shining from Thy face cause us to shed tears of true
repentance and sorrow for all our wrongs.
Oh Redeemer, we have no
confidence in ourselves. Our only confidence is in Thy faithfulness and
love and tenderness. When we began to sink, stretch out Thy hand to save
us, dear Lord. When we begin to deny Thee, recall us with a look of love.
Keep us in our confirmation vow "to continue steadfast in the confession of
this church, and suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it." O
Thou who reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, keep us faithful until
we see Thy glory and eternally praise Thee, world without end. Amen.