The Downfall of a Disciple

Bible Book: Luke  22 : 54-62
Subject: Backsliding; Failure; Downfall

Mohammed Ismail, a twenty year old, was arrested by the Egyptian police in October 1990, and joined two friends who had been arrested eleven days earlier. The three Muslim youths had heard the gospel of Christ and had accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior. They had been proclaiming the gospel of Christ at a youth meeting. While in prison, according to Egyptian Human Rights Operation, they were tortured with electric shocks, beaten and threatened with rape. At their trial in November 1990 they were declared innocent by the courts and released, but they were arrested again by the Secret Police and charged with contempt of Islam and threatening the unity of the country. Other charges were drummed up for which there was a possible ten year sentence. While in jail, Ismail’s two friends confessed their crimes under duress. However, Ismail is reported to have said, ”I will never deny Jesus Christ. ”He was sent to a special wing of the prison called the Tribulation Sector. His lawyer states he was deprived of food and sleep and confined to a dark, severely cramped cell, where he finally recanted his faith in Christ. According to News Network International it is difficult to prove that the Government always tries to force Christians to revert to Islam or recant their Christianity, but after 10 months in prison, the three were released in 1991 as professing Muslims. Have you ever been tempted to deny that you are a disciple of Christ? Perhaps you have found yourselves in situations where it seemed better for your health if you just kept quiet or even recanted your relationship to Jesus Christ. My …. beginning with Peter who gave into the temptation to deny Christ as His Lord, the people of God over the centuries have been tempted to deny the Savior. The circumstances vary from the extreme of being threatened with death, to the daily pressure to deny Christ over lunch with a fellow worker, because of the fear of rejection.

The temptation to deny the Lord Jesus sits outside the heart of each of us looking for an opportunity to be invited in. Christ clearly understood this temptation for He warned His disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, “watch and pray that ye enter not into temptation.”

(Matt 26:41) The denial of His Master was indeed was indeed the culmination of a day of disaster in Simon Peter's life. Earlier Peter had argued with the other disciples over who would be the greatest in the kingdom. Then he at first refused to let the Lord Jesus wash his feet. More than once he boasted he would die for the Lord, if necessary. (Matt 26:31 Mk 14:27 Lk 22:31 Jn 13:33) In Gethsemane he fell asleep when he should have been watching. When the mob came to arrest the Savior, he chopped off the ear of the high priest's servant. Finally in the courtyard, he blatantly denied he ever knew Christ. How sad that the man who had risen so high, should fall so low. But then, ”the best of men are only men at the best. ”It takes us to approach this incident with humility, ”considering ourselves lest we also be tempted.”(Gal 6:1) I want us to look at the downfall of this disciple in a three fold manner. Firstly I want you to see in Peter at this time.


You see ever since Caesarea Philippi (Matt 16:21) the Lord Jesus had been teaching his disciples about the necessity of His death. Now, as the hour drew nearer, He had been warning all of them, but especially Peter to be on his guard against certain specific perils. (Lk 22:31) Through forewarning these men our Lord wanted to forearm them. Peter then received special counsel from the Lord Jesus but the tragic thing was that he arrogantly ignored it. (1) Now Peter's carelessness is seen in at least two area's. Peter disregarded,


Christ, has enlightened Peter as to Satan's insidious plan to attack all of the disciples, but especially Peter himself. The Lord Jesus had warned Peter that there existed for him in the future special dangers and perils. He said, ”Simon, Satan has asked to sift you all as wheat but I have prayed for you Simon that your faith may not fail.” But do you recall Peters reaction? Why he disposed of Christ's counsel with a cocksure boast, ”Lord, I am ready to go with thee both into prison and to death.”

(Lk 22:33) It was as if Peter said, ”Lord why are you talking about dangers, I am ready for anything, You can always count on me. ”He dismissed the Savior's warning with a thoughtless declaration of his own self-sufficiency. Now we need to take this to heart. Could it be that this is exactly what you as a Christian are doing? Are you disregarding a Divine warning in your Christian life right now? What do we do with Divine warnings?

Do we gloss over them? Do we put our hand over that page of the Bible that says, ”thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not bear false witness, thou shalt not covet.”(Exod 20:14-17) What about ”be ye not unequally yoked.”(2 Cor 6:14) Now do you take to heart the warnings of God in His Word? Then again, when through His Word and by His Spirit, the Lord continually gives you the same warning that He gave Peter (Lk 22:31) the warning that Satan has a sinister plan for each of us, how do you react? Do you think that you can evade the snares and subtleties of the tempter? Do we consider ourselves exempt from danger? Do we say in effect, ”I’m all right Lord, don't worry about me, I can cope.” The truth of the matter is we cannot cope and if we think we can we're living in a fool's paradise.


Like many of us believers Peter failed to see what his past history had to say about him. This disciple had passed through experiences that could have taught him much about his character, but he did not learn from them. Whatever the reason Peter repeated the same mistakes again and again. He was like a sick man incapable of reading his own symptoms. Do you recall for example at Caesarea Philippi, when he tried to dissuade Christ from going to the cross? He said, ”be it far from thee Lord this shall not be unto thee.”

(Matt 16:22) In effect he was suggesting that he knew more than the Lord did. And this is exactly the same mistake that he is repeating here again. On the Mount of Transfiguration, its Peter who rashly declares, ”Lord it is good for us to be here, let us make here three tabernacles.” He forgets the fact that Christ has put the keys of the kingdom into his hands, that there was work to be done, souls to be saved, and a church to be built. Peter wanted to build a camp on the mountainside. That was sheer impetuosity. So was this, ”Lord I am ready to go with Thee to prison and to death.” The lessons of the past ! Have you disregarded them? Are you learning from them? Do we realize that our past history makes a pattern? That’s why its good to keep a record in memory or in a diary of how the Lord has led us and how we have reacted. For if we look back honestly over the days and weeks and months, in the light of Gods Word, we will see a picture of ourselves emerging. And if we have the least grain of wisdom, we will learn from that picture. But not Peter, for here was a man who at this stage in his life lived carelessly.


A kidnapper abducted an eight-year old girl in the morning, drove around with her, phoned for a ransom, then without trying to collect the money, let her out near her home unharmed. When he was caught, his fellow-citizens were amazed, for he had been a model citizen. But no person falls suddenly. Someone has said, “Collapse in the Christian life is seldom a blow-out; it's usually a slow leak. ”It was this with Peter. Indeed as you scan this passage you will note some of the steps that led to the downfall of this disciple. Notice for example that Peter failed,


The failure to watch and pray is almost inevitably the first vital failure that precedes spiritual and moral disaster. Three times Peter and the other disciples failed in this respect and is it to be wondered? If we are full of confidence in ourselves what need is there for us to cry to the Lord for help? You see, if I have adequate resources why pray? For prayer is the recognition that your need is not partial but total. With Peter it happened in the Garden of Gethsemane. Leaving eight of the disciples Christ took with Him, that innermost circle, Peter, James and John. (Matt 26:36) He spoke to them of his overwhelming sorrow, ”My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death, tarry ye here and watch with me.”(Matt 26: 38)”And He went a little farther. ”The Lord Jesus poured out his heart in ardent prayer to His Father (Heb 5:7) but when He returned to the disciples what did he find? Where was cocksure Simon? Where was the self-sufficient Peter? Where was the man who was ready to go to prison and to death? He was fast asleep.

And directing his words to Peter, Christ said, ”what could ye not watch with me one hour?”(Matt 26:40) “watch and pray that ye enter not into temptation. ”But the same pattern was repeated again and again. Is it any wonder that Peter denied his Lord? His failure began in the place of prayer. You see prayer is the gateway of getting help from God. Vance Havner once suggested that prayer is the only thing we can do that affects three worlds at once. It reaches up in Worship of God. It reaches out in Work to Man. It reaches down in Warfare against Satan. Its our over-confidence that causes us to neglect our devotional life, our time of prayer. For prayer is a confession of inadequacy. It’s a recognition of our limitations. It’s the gateway to getting help from God, and if we think we do not need His help, we are in the gravest of dangers. Peter’s failure began in the place of prayer and if we sleep in the hour of prayer, a landslide will begin that will soon desolate the individual, the church, the community. Are you watchful? What about your prayer life? Do we live like believers who believe that Satan is abroad? That the world is ensnaring? That the flesh is weak?

“Christian seek not yet repose,

Hear thy gracious Savior say,

Thou art in the midst of foes,

What and pray.”


Now does the one thing not follow the other? I mean its when we are out of touch with the Lord that we resort to carnality. Its when we are out of communion with the Master that we always think, say, do things that grieve the Spirit of God. (Eph 4:30) Do you want proof of that? Well, look at Peter. Wakened out of his sleep to the harsh realities of the hour, which his Master had foretold, Peter sees the crowd, coming armed with swords and clubs, and when they laid hands on

Jesus, Peter can remain passive no longer, as he whips out his sword and cuts off the right ear of Malchus.

(Jn 18:10) Now listen. In the Garden we see Peter Sleeping in the flesh, with the Sword we see Peter Fighting in the flesh, before the multitude, we see Peter Cursing in the flesh. (Matt 26:74) Now do you see the problem? It’s the same problem that you and I face every day of the week. Peter was active when he should have been passive and Peter was passive when he should have been active ! When he should have been active in prayer he was passive in sleep, and when he should have been passive in resignation to the will of God he was active with the sword. Do you ever find yourself in that situation? Someone calls you on the phone and says, ”I know I should not tell you this, but in order for you to pray more intelligently,” then the gossip is unloaded.

“But you should not tell any anyone,” The other person says, “Don’t worry I would not dream about it.” But you can scarcely wait to get off the phone to get back on to pass on the juicy bits to someone else. But listen, an hour later you’re given a wonderful opportunity to witness for Christ and it’s as if you have lockjaw. Active when you should have been passive, passive when you should have been active.


John Knox, that bold Scottish preacher, approached the court of Bloody Mary, an avowed enemy of the preacher. He was advised to postpone his visit as she was in an angry mood. He kept right on walking toward her throne, saying, ”why should I be afraid of a Queen when I have just spent four hours with God?” The fear of man brings a snare. Peter found this out as he cowed in the midst of his Masters enemies. The man who only a few hours earlier had pledged his loyalty to Christ even to the extent of going to prison and death now denies the Lord Jesus three times over. ”Woman I know Him not.”(Lk 22:57)”Man I am not.”(22:58)”Man I know

not what thou sayest.”(22:60)

Do you see that there is a progression in evil which is found in most of us? For if we fail to watch and pray, then we fail to walk by faith, closed to spiritual realities we rely on our own devices and the result is the failure to witness for Christ for wanting to save our own skins we become ashamed of Him, and all our professions of faith so sincerely and fervently made now dissipate into denials, all because we have failed to watch and pray. ”I know Him not.” Is that what you have said in the office? On the factory? With your friends? Did you know we can deny Christ by Silence? A proverb says, ”Silence is golden, sometimes its yellow.” A man who became a Christian went off to work in a lumber camp. When he returned his pastor asked if he suffered much ridicule because he was a Christian. ”Not a bit,” the lumberjack replied, “because they never found out.” Did you know that we can deny Christ by Inconsistency? The believer who tells a lie denies the God of Truth. The Christian who gets involved in immorality denies the God of Purity. The member who cheats in business denies the God of Honesty. (Titus 1:16) Then, we can deny Christ by Un-Christlike attitude. Its so easy to criticize Peter but what about us? (1) (2) But look,


Sure Peter lived to regret bitterly his denial of Christ (22:62) but through this incident he came to know himself, to be broken before the Lord. Do you know the trouble with most of us? We're too strong for God to use. Like standing wheat we're erect, proud, cocksure, arrogant, but wheat standing is no use for food. It must be broken and threshed before it can fulfill the purpose it was meant to serve. You see, the Lord can do nothing with us until we are broken before Him. The Lord says, ”But to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my Word.”

(Is 66:2) You see, God had to let Peter fall and fail in order to break him, so that ultimately he would be made into a ”vessel of honor meet for the Master's use.”

(2 Tim 2:21) Thus while Peter's denial was the climax of his sin, it was also the occasion of a new start, a start that began when,


Look at that telling phrase in (22:61-62) Now Peter had walked with the Lord Jesus for three years. He had seen the Master look at many different things, and he had seen Him look in many different ways, but he had never seen Jesus look like that. And when their eyes locked, and suddenly Peter realized that Jesus knew, it broke his heart wide open. That look from Christ went through Peter like a knife. He had never seen his Master look like that before. And suddenly, crushingly, the truth came home to Peter that he had the hurt the heart of Jesus more than he had hurt his own heart. ”And Peter went out and he wept bitterly.” It was a look of rebuke but it was also a look of restoration. For as the Master looked on Peter He still loved him and it was a look that was saying, ”Come back Peter I still love you, I need you, I forgive you.” “And Peter went out and wept bitterly.”

(22:62) And those tears of repentance marked the beginning of the way back for Peter. Am I speaking to some Christian this .... and you have failed the Lord greatly? Have you let Him down? Have you brought dishonor to His name? I certainly did. Do you know something? The Devil is expert at setting traps for young believers. He certainly caught me. For there was a time in my experience after I trusted Christ as a young boy when I changed school and company. My companions were godless and my conduct was sinful. But don’t we have a gracious Savior? It was a Sunday evening and so off I drudged as usual to take my place in the gallery in the back seat so that I could twist and turn and talk and chatter without being noticed too much. But the Lord had his eye on me that ….. for as Pastor Simpson preached on the Prodigal the Spirit of God took hold of me personally and when Lord talks you listen. My …. the Lord looked on me that evening and I went out of the building weeping bitterly, but those tears of repentance marked the beginning of my way back. (a)


What? A new knowledge of himself. Yes, for now he had come to know himself as never before. Peter gained …. what? A new appreciation of his Savior. For if Peter could speak to us directly today as a man who failed miserably but who was restored wonderfully he might look into your face and say, ”I know that you may do as I did, you may fall as I fell but listen, there is something bigger, much greater than my sin and that is the grace of my Lord. He did not give me up. He would not let me go. He could not write me off, but He came after me. Yes, He allowed me to be broken but he made a new man of me, a man who could start to act, as the rock-like man He promised I would become at the beginning. My Lord is patient and persevering.”


(Jn 1:42 1 Thes 5:24) Are these truths that you need to hear this....? Maybe like Peter you've failed the Lord greatly. Are you wondering, ”Will the Lord give me up? Will He write me off? Will the Master let me go?” Never, for He loves you, wants you, needs you to fulfill His purposes, to extend His kingdom, to build His church. ”And the Lord turned and looked upon Peter.” (22:61)

Is the Lord looking upon you like this? Does there need to be that repenting moment in your life? Like Peter, do you need to weep tears of repentance?