Sun, Dec 16, 2001
FOLLOWING AT A DISTANCE MATTHEW 26:58, 69-75
Matthew 26:58 & Matthew 26:69-75 by Joe Guglielmo
Ministry of Pastor Joe Guglielmo teachings through the Bible, verse by verse for a better understanding of Gods Word.
Series: Topical Studies
FOLLOWING AT A DISTANCE
MATTHEW 26:58, 69-75
 

Please turn in your Bibles to Matthew chapter 26 as we look at what can happen when we follow Jesus at a distance. And as you are turning there, listen to this story Charles Swindoll tells. He said:

Stephen Pile has written a book titled The Book of Failures. It’s got unbelievable stuff in it. Like that time back in 1978 during the firemen’s strike in England. It made possible one of the greatest animal rescue attempts of all time. Valiantly, the British Army had taken over emergency firefighting. On January 14 they were called out by an elderly lady in South London to rescue her cat. They arrived with impressive haste, very cleverly and carefully rescued the cat, and started to drive away. But the lady was so grateful she invited the squad of heroes in for tea. Driving off later with fond farewells and warm waving of arms, they ran over her cat and killed it.

- Charles R. Swindoll, Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life

Pride is a terrible thing and when we think we have done some great thing, be careful, you might run over the cat! That truly is the case for Peter in Matthew chapter 26. You see, Jesus warns Peter and the other disciples that they were going to "stumble" this night. The word that Jesus used for stumble speaks of taking offense at someone or something and turning away and falling into sin. As Jesus, the Shepherd, is arrested, placed on trial and then put to death, the sheep, His men, including Peter, were going to be scattered, they were going to stumble.

Now upon hearing those words of Jesus, Peter said, "...‘Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble.’" Matthew 26:33. Now don’t think Peter was being insincere, not at all. He truly meant what he said. But Jesus again warns him by saying, "...‘Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.’" Matthew 26:34. And big, strong, confident Peter came back to say to Jesus,"...‘Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!’..." Matthew 26:35.

Jesus warns Peter and His disciples that they were going to fail and in our text this morning we are going to see the reason for this failure, for Peter’s failure, for in it I believe is a warning to us. With that said let’s begin reading in verse 58 of Matthew chapter 26 and see what the Lord has for us this morning.

MATTHEW 26:58, 69-75

I think many times we are very sincere about things, about our walk with God, just as Peter was. The two main problems Peter faced was he thought he knew better than the Lord and secondly, he thought he could be strong in the Lord and yet follow Him at a distance. Be very careful because both of these attitudes will lead to ungodly actions, ungodly consequences.

Both of these ideas sound very simplistic and obvious to us, but I am here to tell you, this is the area people struggle in and it is because of not believing that these things can be detrimental to our walk, to our life, we don’t think much about them. So first of all I want to look at these two issues and then we will see the consequences they have as they are played out in Peter’s life.

The first point I want to talk about is Peter thinking he knew better than the Lord. The Lord said Peter will stumble and Peter said "No way, I am not going to stumble!" What a mistake for Peter and for us when we think we know better than Jesus. Now some of you may be thinking that this does not pertain to you, that you would never think you know more than the Lord, only a fool would think like that. Well I have to agree with the last part, but in regards to the first part, I am here to tell you to be careful, because the enemy is good at slipping this one by us!

Let me give you a couple of examples of what I mean. In II Corinthians chapter 6 Paul talks about believers not being yoked or tied together in a relationship with unbelievers. I can’t tell you the number of people that feel God is not speaking to them on this issue, but it must be for others, He doesn’t know the person I am dating! So they go on these missionary dates or dating unbelievers and before they know it things get serious and they are married. And then the problems start, for the believer wants to go to church, to Bible study, while the unbeliever wants nothing to do with it. They are moving in different directions. And before long things are a mess, the love is gone and the counseling starts. If you don’t believe me then give Pastor Chuck Smith a call at Calvary of Costa Mesa and ask him how many counseling sessions his pastors do because of relationships like this. You see, God is right!

Some feel that getting drunk is okay, you just need to be responsible about it. I disagree. You can have a drink if you want, but drunkenness God forbids! Listen to what the Scriptures say regarding this, how bad it really is for us. In Proverbs 23:29-35 we are told, "Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaints? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who linger long at the wine, those who go in search of mixed wine. Do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it swirls around smoothly; At the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like a viper. Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart will utter perverse things. Yes, you will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, or like one who lies at the top of the mast, saying: ‘They have struck me, but I was not hurt; they have beaten me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake, that I may seek another drink?’" Look at the bondage that alcohol has placed people in, the lives it has destroyed, the families it has destroyed. If you don’t believe me just ask someone who has come out of that bondage and they will tell you how bad it really was. Again, God is right!

Others feel that a little sin doesn’t hurt anyone, it is just the big sins that really count. I hate to upset your fantasy world, but sin is sin and once you start playing with sin you will be dragged down deeper into it not even realizing how far you have departed from God. Jesus said in John 8:34-36, "...‘Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.’" You see, sin enslaves us when Jesus has come to set us free. Don’t play with sin, flee from it! Again, God is right!

And there are many issues we can discuss in which God warns us to stay away from but let me just leave with this one, sexual sin. I think I have heard all the lines when it comes to this issue as people try to justify their sin. Some have said to me, "Hey, in God’s eyes we are married!" No you are not! "God invented sex, so why can’t we enjoy it?" You can enjoy it, for God did create it, but not according to your standards, but God’s! "We really love each other and God will honor that!" No He won’t if you are not married! And the list goes on but I think you can see how good we can be in justifying our sin and using God to justify it! Let me say this, let me share with you what God does say, in Hebrews 13:4 we are told, "Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge." And you can put a period on that, you can put an exclamation mark on that!

In regards to sexual sin, fleshly desires, Peter warns us in I Peter 2:11, "Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul." You need to flee those things that are going to bring you down, listen to what God says for He is right, and we are not. Believe me, you do not know more than God and please don’t believe that these things are not for you, that what God has said in His Word is for others, but you are above them, for you will get burned!

The second point I want to talk about is that Peter began to follow Jesus at a distance, and folks, that is a red flag! Remember the old Lost in Space television show when trouble was coming and their robot would move his arms up and down and say, "Danger, danger, alien approaching!" If you are following Jesus at a distance, He will be a alien to you and that is dangerous! That may shock some of you, but it is true!

Some of you who know me know that I hate to shop. But when I bear the cross and go shopping with my wife I do like to watch people. And in doing that I have found that young couples walk close together, holding hands, maybe having their arms wrapped around each other, there is a closeness to them. But, as you get older, it seems that couples don’t hold hands and before long you begin to walk apart from each other. Then, by the time you are in your 60's or 70's the men are walking behind with other men while their wives are walking in front of them. What’s up with that? I hope that never happens in my relationship with my wife, I love her more now than ever before and I always want to be close to her. And folks, our walk with the Lord should be no different!

You see, the more you distance yourself from Jesus, the easier it is to sin, just as it is with your spouse. Distance only separates you, it does not draw you closer to Jesus and His Word. And it becomes a downward spiral where you don’t even recognize your sin because you have distanced yourself so much from Jesus. No longer do you enjoy reading His Word, you just don’t have the time with your busy schedule, God understands that. No longer do you go to Bible studies, you are too busy with work and all, God understands. And fellowship with other Christians, no way, there is not enough time. You need to be around the unsaved so you can share Jesus with them, but you don’t share Jesus, you don’t say anything that might offend them about the Lord, you don’t want to lose your friends.

Paul, in Romans 15:4 said, "For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope."May we learn the lessons from Peter and not go down that slippery path. May we not think we are better than Peter or above Peter, or that those things don’t apply to our lives, for Paul is telling us that they are here for a reason, they are here so we may learn. In saying that, let’s look at what happened to Peter on this very eventful night!

In Matthew 26:69-70 we are told, "Now Peter sat outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came to him, saying, ‘You also were with Jesus of Galilee.’ But he denied it before them all, saying, ‘I do not know what you are saying.’" First of all this little servant girl begins to look at Peter, she thinks she recognizes him, but is not sure, so she asks him. The questions was like "You aren’t the one who was with Him, are you?" And that left the door wide open for Peter to say "No way! You got the wrong guy!" And that is exactly what he did.

As I said, Peter was following the Lord at a distance, that was a big mistake. But listen to what we are told in John 18:18, for it is even worse. John tells us, "And the servants and officers who had made a fire of coals stood there, for it was cold, and they warmed themselves. And Peter stood with them and warmed himself.Peter is now standing in the camp of the enemy and warming himself by the enemies fire! Please understand that anytime you try to warm yourself by the enemies fire you are going to get burned! Peter was trying to be like the world, trying to fit in, and when he was recognized, he denied he knew Jesus. You see, warming yourself by the enemies fire will only lead to compromise in your life!

Have you ever been put in a situation where you thought denying the Lord would be better, it would be easier than confessing you are a Christian, not telling them that you don’t want to hear their dirty jokes, that you are not going to run from activities that they are doing? Many times we think it is easier to blend in, like Peter did. Thus, God placed this lesson here for us to learn from, that it is dangerous to deny Him or warm ourselves by the enemies fire. And the idea, of course, is that we are not to hide our light under that basket, for there are no secret agent Christians, let your light shine and not the enemies!

As we move on in Matthew we read in Matthew 26:71-72, "And when he had gone out to the gateway, another girl saw him and said to those who were there, ‘This fellow also was with Jesus of Nazareth.’ But again he denied with an oath, ‘I do not know the Man!’"Prior to this Peter was by the enemies fire and it illuminated his face so much that the servant girl thought she recognized him. So now he moves away from the fire, to the porch, where it was dark, probably thinking he could hide himself and just blend in with the world, the crowd!

Now, in the darkness, another servant girl see’s him and she is pretty sure that Peter was the one who was with Jesus. And as she begins to talk, she gets others looking at Peter and more and more are talking and wondering and saying, "There he is, that is the one, he is a disciple of Jesus!" Peter is now in trouble because it is not just the servant girl, but the crowds that were there are getting involved. Peter has been backed into a corner and he once again deny’s the Lord, this time with an oath. In other words, he said something like this, "I swear to God I don’t know the man!" He is swearing by God that he doesn’t know Jesus!

Isn’t it amazing how we can rationalize and justify our sin, our actions, and it is a step at a time process that leads us down a path of destruction. Ask any person who has fallen into sin and repented and they will tell you they can’t believe how far down that path of sin they traveled. For instance, adultery, it starts out in the mind, fantasizing, talking and before you know it, it has become a reality! Be careful. Learn the lesson. Don’t go down that path of sin for it will not only affect you, but your family and friends!

A great and tragic example of this is seen in the life of Lot. He chose to live in Sodom. But notice the steps he took to get there. He first saw the beauty of Sodom, then he coveted Sodom, and then he took it. That is how sin works. And in Lot’s life we can see this as he walked down this path. He first pitched his tent towards Sodom, just enjoying the beauty of the land from a distance. Then he got closer and moved into Sodom. And finally, he sat at the gate of Sodom, becoming part of the system, and in the end, that kind of lifestyle, that influence upon him and his family, destroyed most of his family, including his wife. Even when the angel came to destroy Sodom, he had to pull Lot out, it was difficult for him to leave it all behind. Let me ask you this, by your actions how many people are you leading down a path of destruction when you should be pointing them to Jesus, being a light to this world? Be careful! And as I said, don’t walk down that path, for the longer you linger, the farther you will travel and the more dangerous it will become until you become a slave to sin!

Now the third time we see Peter in trouble in this section is in Matthew 26:73-74a, "And a little later those who stood by came up and said to Peter, ‘Surely you also are one of them, for your speech betrays you.’ Then he began to curse and swear, saying, ‘I do not know the Man!’..." Now in Luke 22:59 we are told that about an hour had passed from the last incident. And maybe Peter was breathing a little easier now, he was out of danger, his sin was not exposed, until an eyewitness picked him out of the crowd. In John 18:26 we are told,"One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of him whose ear Peter cut off, said, ‘Did I not see you in the garden with Him?’"

This guy was a relative of Malchus, the guy whose ear Peter cut off, and he now recognizes Peter! He was there when Peter did this to Malchus, he saw it all happen. And this guy keeps repeating that Peter is the one, and his Galilean accent gives him away! Peter is in big trouble now and he basically says, "May God strike me dead if I am lying! I don’t know the man!" I’m not sure that is a good thing to say, but Peter was in trouble and that was his solution to the problem, maybe they would believe him if he said it that way.

That is lie number three and what do you think Peter hears next? Matthew tells us "...And immediately a rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus who had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.’ So he went out and wept bitterly." Matthew 26:74b-75. In fact, in Luke 22:60 we are told that as Peter was still speaking, as his words of denial were still in his mouth, as they were coming from his lips, the rooster crowed! It was at that point that Peter realized his failure.

Now before we deal with Peter’s response, let’s look at the events that were transpiring in the house of Caiaphas. As Jesus is before these religious leaders, He is accused of blasphemy against God, claiming that He is God. And the high priest tore his clothes and the religious leaders began to spit upon Jesus, they blindfolded Him, they beat Him with their fists so badly that He did not look like a man anymore, He was mocked. And as the rooster crows, the blindfold is removed from Jesus and Luke 22:61-62 tells us, "And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.’ So Peter went out and wept bitterly." In other words, the eyes of Jesus met the eyes of Peter, and it was just too much for him, and Peter went out weeping bitterly. He saw the Lord beaten and bloody, and he could not even stand for Him, to admit that he was a follower of Jesus. And it broke his heart, the words that Jesus said had come to pass and the words of Peter failed!

I don’t know where you are at this morning, maybe you are feeling like Peter, broken over your sin, broken over your failure, feeling that God can’t use you anymore or that He won’t use you anymore because of what you have done. Let me say this, and please listen, YOU ARE WRONG! Let me explain. First of all, what kind of look do you think Jesus gave Peter? Maybe a look of disgust? No, not at all! Maybe a look of anger? No, not at all! Maybe a look of disappointment? No, not at all! Maybe a look of failure? No, not at all. I truly believe, as you look at the nature of Jesus, the look He gave to Peter was one of unconditional love and it was that look that finally broke the heart of Peter, and he went away and wept! And maybe that is where you are at this morning, ready to run away and weep over your failure, over your sin.

Like Peter, Jesus will not leave you in that broken condition. On Resurrection morning an angel tells the women at the tomb, "But go, tell His disciples-- and Peter-- that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you." Mark 16:7. Jesus did not forget Peter or ignore Peter or put Peter on the shelf, but wants Peter to know He is with him. And then we see Jesus publically restore Peter in John 21:15-17, where we are told, "So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?’ He said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’ He said to him, ‘Feed My lambs.’ He said to him again a second time, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?’ He said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’ He said to him, ‘Tend My sheep.’ He said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?’ Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, ‘Do you love Me?’ And he said to Him, ‘Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed My sheep.’"

Jesus asked Peter "Do you AGAPE Me?" It is a word that speaks of unconditional love, and Peter, recognizing his weakness, was only able to say, "Lord, I PHILEO You!" It is a word that speaks of brotherly love. And a second time Jesus says the same words and so does Peter. And finally, the third time, Jesus said to Peter, "Do you PHILEO Me?" And Peter said, "You know Lord that I PHILEO You! That is all I can do!" You see, Peter came to the conclusion that Father knows best, Father God that is! He saw his weakness and was going to trust in what God said instead of what he felt was right. He was going to stay close to the Lord and the Lord tells Peter to feed and tend His sheep. You see, He restored Peter just as He will do with us when we come to our senses and return to Him, when our pride is finally broken!

You see, the Lord knows us better than we know ourselves and He will bring us to the place where we will see we can’t do it on our own, and then He can work in us, for it won’t be by our power or our might, but His! It is as Paul said in Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Let’s face it, none of us have the strength to walk without the help of God. Look to Him to be the strength of your life.

As we bring this study to a close this morning, let me leave you with some things to think about, things that brought Peter down, things that lead to his fall, his failure so we may not go down that same path but learn from these things.

A. PETER THOUGHT HE KNEW MORE THAN THE LORD, THAT THE WORDS OF THE LORD DID NOT APPLY TO HIM.

B. PETER WAS SELF CONFIDENT.

C. PETER WAS SLEEPING IN THE GARDEN OF GETHSEMANE WHEN HE SHOULD HAVE BEEN PRAYING.

D. PETER WAS WILLING TO FOLLOW JESUS AT A DISTANCE.

E. PETER TRIED TO FIT INTO THE WORLD BY PUTTING OUT HIS LIGHT AND WARMING HIMSELF BY THE WORLDS FIRES.

F. PETER WAS LIVING A LIE BEFORE THEM, THEY WANTED THE TRUTH, AND HE DIDN’T GIVE THEM THE TRUTH BUT A LIE. THAT IS HYPOCRISY!

We need to learn from those lessons so we don’t travel down that same path! God has warned us, may we listen and not run over the cat! Let me leave you with these words from Paul in Romans 13:11-14, where he says "And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts." And that is done as Paul says in Galatians 5:16, "I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh." May we learn those lessons and stand strong in the Lord, not in our flesh! Too many people think they can walk in the flesh and fulfill the things of the Spirit and that will never happen! Listen to what God says in His Word and apply them to your life and your walk will be strong in the Lord!