Luke: I do not know Him. I am not one of them. And I don’t know what you are talking about.

Sermon by J. Ligon Duncan on September 18, 2011

Luke 22:54-62

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The Lord’s Day Morning

September 18, 2011

“I do not know Him. I am not one of
them. And I don’t know what you are
talking about.”

Luke 22:54-62

The Reverend Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III

If you have your Bibles, I’d invite you to turn with me to Luke 22 as we
continue our way through the gospel together.
Last week we were looking at the betrayal of the Lord Jesus by Judas.
And in this passage this week, we come to the denial of Jesus by Peter.
It is a solemn passage. Jesus
had only a few hours before told Peter that he was going to deny Him.
Peter protested. He protested
that though everyone else deserted Jesus, he would never desert Jesus.
Jesus explained to him that before the sun rose, he was not only going to
deny Him once, but he was going to do it three times.
And this is the passage that recounts that story.
And it has a solemn message for each of us.
It has a message about sin, it has a message about grace, and it has a
message about repentance in it for us.
This passage depicts for us the mystery of iniquity, the infinity of
mercy, and the necessity of repentance.
And let’s pray for God to open our eyes as we prepare to study it.

Heavenly Father, this is Your Word.
We do not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from Your mouth
and we especially need this word for it deals with matters of the heart.
It does not merely record history of an event that happened almost two
thousand years ago; it does not merely accurately record that history.
It does not merely record for us instructions on daily life.
It speaks in this passage of matters of the heart that are a reality, a
reality in our own lives and in our own temptations.
And it speaks words that we dare not ignore, so open our eyes and our
hearts and our ears that we might hear Your word and believe it and respond to
it in faith. We pray in Jesus’ name.
Amen.

This is the Word of God. Hear it.
Beginning in Luke 22 verse 54:

“Then they seized Him
and led Him away, bringing Him into the high priest’s house, and Peter was
following at a distance. And when
they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together,
Peter sat down among them. Then a
servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him,
said, ‘This man also was with Him.’
But he denied it, saying, ‘Woman, I do not know Him.’
And a little later someone else saw him and said, ‘You also are one of
them.’ But Peter said, ‘Man, I am
not.’ And after an interval of about
an hour still another insisted, ‘Certainly this man also was with Him, for he
too is a Galilean.’ But Peter said,
‘Man, I do not know what you are talking about.’
And immediately while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed.
And the Lord turned and looked at Peter.
And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how He had said to him,
‘Before the rooster crows today, you will deny Me three times.’
And he went out and wept bitterly.”

Amen, and thus ends this reading of God’s holy, inspired, and inerrant Word.
May He write its eternal truth upon all our hearts.

Peter really did love Jesus, didn’t he?
You know, even in the exchange with Jesus in the Upper Room, with Jesus
telling him, “You’re going to deny Me,” and Peter saying, “Lord, I’ll never deny
You. If everybody else denies You, I
won’t deny You. If everyone else
deserts You, I won’t desert You,” even in that exchange, you hear something of
the intensity of Peter’s passion for Jesus.
He genuinely loved Jesus. And
you even get a feel for that in the garden, don’t you?
When that garrison of Roman officers and the temple guards and the mob
being led with torches and clubs and swords of overwhelming force against Jesus
and the apostles, Peter pulls out a sword and is ready to strike the servant of
the high priest because he is determined to protect the friend and master that
he loves.

And even here, we get a glimpse of Peter’s love, don’t we?
All of the other disciples have deserted Jesus at this point, except for
Peter and one other. One of the
disciples had contacts with the high priest and was able to get himself and
Peter into the courtyard of the high priest. And you can see Peter’s love even
in that because Peter does not want to abandon his friend.
He wants to be near Him. I
have no idea what Peter’s plan was, I don’t even know if Peter had a plan, but I
do know that he loved Jesus enough that he had no intention of leaving Him
alone. If Jesus was going to be
carried off to a kangaroo court to be tried unjustly and unbiblically and
illegally by some group of His assailants and captors and haters, Peter was not
going to leave Him there on His own.
And so Peter is very bravely in the courtyard, and yet, and yet, Peter fails
exactly as Jesus had told him he was going to fail.
Peter does exactly what Jesus told him he was going to do and exactly
what Peter told Jesus he would never do.

And in this moving and heartbreaking story, there are three messages that I want
us to focus on together. This
passage teaches us something about sin and it teaches us something about our sin
and it teaches us something about our sin and the way that that sin is leveraged
so that we go on to greater defections.
This passage also teaches us something about the infinite mercy and grace
of the Lord Jesus Christ and it teaches us about the nature and necessity of
true repentance. And so I want to
meditate on those three themes with you for just a few moments.

THE MYSTERY OF INIQUITY

The first thing I want you to see here is what we learn about sin.
Peter clearly loved Jesus, Peter was clearly brave, Peter was very
courageous to be even in the area, much less in the courtyard, outside of the
house where Jesus was being tried, but Peter was fearful, wasn’t he?
And fear got the best of him here.
I do not say that fear would not have gotten the best of me, but it
definitely got the best of Peter here.
Peter was unprepared for the question that he was addressed.
A servant girl, perhaps the woman in the vestibule watching who was
coming in and out of the courtyard and involved with admitting and sending out
those who were there, was staring him down.
Perhaps she had seen him during the day when Jesus was ministering in
Jerusalem and she recognized him.
And it was one of those things — have you ever seen somebody and you’ve
recognized them before, you’ve seen them somewhere before, and you look and you
look and you look and then finally it comes to you and you’ve just got to get up
in the restaurant and cross across the room and speak to them or you’ve just got
to get up from where you are at the party and go speak to them because you’ve
seen them somewhere else before?
This happens and she recognizes him and she says, “You were with Him.
You’re one of His disciples, right?”
And Peter’s totally unprepared for this and he’s afraid.
He’s afraid of the consequences of being discovered in that very
vulnerable situation and he says, “I don’t even know Him.”
And then someone else says, “I’ve seen you with them.
You were part of that group.
You were part of that group of disciples that went around with Him, all the way
from Galilee down here to Judea.
You’re part of them, aren’t you?”
And he says, “No, I’m not one of them.”
And then someone sitting near at the fire listening to him, and he keeps
hearing the Galilean accent, he knows he’s not from around here, and he says,
“You’re a Galilean too. You must be,
you must be one of His disciples.”
And Peter says, “I don’t even know what you’re talking about.”
But his fear led him to a great defection.
Fear was the seed sin that allowed him to deny his Savior.

And Satan so often works that way in us.
There’s some sin and it’s the hook or it’s the wedge or it’s the means by
which we go to greater sin. And
Satan’s always looking for those things in us because they’re there.
One famous Scottish minister said, “In my heart are the seeds of every
known sin.” And if you don’t know
that about yourself you are in terrible danger.
This is why, by the way, that Jesus said to Peter and the other
disciples, “Pray that you enter not into temptation.”
This is why before they had ever left the Upper Room He had told Peter
the trial that he was going to undergo and He had urged Peter and all the
disciples to pray to prepare themselves for it.
But Peter was not ready. And
though Peter genuinely loved Jesus it was not enough for him to resist this
particular sin and this particular denial and this particular defection.
And I don’t know what sin and defection you are struggling with or
contemplating today, but I hope that in your battle against it you are not
relying on the love that is in your heart for Jesus because that will not be
enough.

Peter loved Jesus; he probably loved Jesus more than anybody in this room, and
it was not enough. Jesus had already
explained to Peter and the disciples that they needed to know the sinfulness of
their own hearts, the severity of their trial, and their need for God’s Spirit
and God’s grace so that they needed to be in prayer begging for God to give them
the supply, for God to give them the aid, for God to give them the help that
they were going to need in the trial that they had gone through.
And you know, Luke never records for us Peter praying in this section.
I don’t know that Peter didn’t lift up a quick prayer somewhere along the
way. It would be surprising if he
didn’t, but he clearly did not do what Jesus had exhorted the disciples to do.
We know, for instance, that he was sleeping along with the other
disciples in the garden when Jesus told them that they needed to be praying.
And so he was unprepared spiritually for the challenge with sin that he
faced and he relied not on God, not by prayer upon the strength that only God
can supply, but he relied on what was in him and he wasn’t ready.
And if you rely on what is in you and you don’t rely upon God’s grace and
you don’t rely upon God’s Spirit and you don’t rely upon the Gospel, you don’t
stand a chance against sin, and the leveraging of one sin that leads to another
that Satan so often does. And this
passage teaches us about the mystery of iniquity and how one sin can lead to
another.

I don’t know what secret defections that you are contemplating in your heart
this morning. You may be thinking
about leaving your family. You may
be thinking about defecting in some other way.
But I do know this — if you face that temptation in your own strength,
you will lose. And Jesus said to
Peter and to the disciples, “Pray that you enter not into temptation and that
you are delivered from that temptation.”
We need to constantly know the capacity of our hearts for defection.
We need to constantly know our need for God’s help and grace because the
Gospel is not just for unbelievers; the Gospel is for believers too.
We need God’s Gospel, we need God’s grace, we need God’s mercy just as
much as unbelievers for the facing of the sins of this hour.
And that’s one thing we learn in Peter’s denials.

THE INFINITY OF MERCY

But there’s a second thing we learn here, isn’t it?
And it’s beautiful. Do you
know what is the difference between Peter and Judas?
Luke tells you. It’s verse
61. Right as Peter is denying Jesus
for the third time, we are told that “Jesus turned and looked at him.”
B.B. Warfield once commented on that passage in a sermon that he preached
and he said that “as our Savior was being tried and preparing to bear the sins
of us all on the cross, He had time to give one glance to a faltering disciple
and so save his soul in the saving of the world.”
You think of it, you know, Jesus had a few things to think about that
night. There were a few things going
on, and I don’t know where Jesus was standing.
I don’t know whether He was in the balcony of a gallery looking down in
the courtyard, I don’t know whether He was a room of a house looking out a
window, I don’t know whether He was passing by in the courtyard as they were
passing Him on to Herod or to Pilate or to someone else, but wherever He was He
was able to see Peter and He just looked at Peter.

And the difference between Peter and Judas can be traced to that look.
It was not something different in Peter, it was something about what the
Savior did in His infinite mercy for Peter.
He looked at him, and in that look reminded him of the word.
And we’re told that in verse 61.
The minute that Jesus’ and Peter’s eyes met, Peter did what?
“He remembered the word.” And
notice what Jesus is doing — He’s taking him back to the word.
We’ll talk about that in just a second.
But that glance is the difference between Peter ending up like Judas and
Peter being restored. You see in the
end the difference between you and me and the difference between you and me and
those who do not repent, is not that we are better; it’s that Jesus has shown us
His infinite mercy. The seeds of
every known sin are in our hearts and it’s the mercy of Jesus that spares us
from going where we could have gone.

Billy Joseph was talking in the Inquirer’s Class today to some of our folks who
are checking us out here at First Presbyterian Church and he said, “You know, as
our elders get involved with pastoral situations with people that are struggling
with sin in the congregation, one of the things that our elders say to us over
and over in those encounters as they deal with the sins in the hearts and lives
of other people, is that it always convicts them of their own sin and they
realize that sometimes that when they’re dealing with sin in the life of another
person that may be wrecking their life, that the temptation to that sin exists
in their own heart but in God’s kindness He has kept them from it.”
He has either kept them from the opportunity or He has spared them in the
temptation to follow through on the opportunity.
And if we’re not realistic about that, if we don’t understand that we are
capable, we are capable of doing unspeakable crimes, then we are in real danger.
Jesus said to Peter, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”
And then He gave him a look when Peter had forgotten everything that
Jesus had told him, that that look led Peter to repentance rather than to
self-destruction.

THE NECESSITY OF REPENTANCE

But there’s a third thing we see in this passage and it’s a message about
repentance. I want you to see, first
of all, how repentance takes root.
Jesus looks into Peter’s eyes and Gospel repentance begins with the work of God
the Holy Spirit in us. It doesn’t
begin with our work; it begins with the work of the Spirit drawing our eyes to
something we need to see. And notice
what Jesus’ look to Peter draws him to think about.
It leads him to think about the word, the word that Jesus had spoken to
him. True repentance begins when the
Spirit holds the Word up to us like a mirror and we look into that mirror and
our eyes are opened for the first time and we suddenly realize what we’ve done.
And that’s exactly what happens to Peter.
And what does he do? He goes
out and he weeps bitterly. He sees
his sin. He had not seen his sin
before. He repeated his sin but he
had not seen it. But then Jesus
looks at him, he remembers the word, the Spirit holds the word up to Peter like
a mirror, and Peter, suddenly, like an outer body experience, sees what he has
done and it grieves his soul with a godly sorrow, a godly sorrow that will lead
him not simply to feel bad about getting caught, not simply to feel bad about
the consequences of that sin, but to hate the sin that he has committed and to
have his life changed. He does not
go on in that sin.

You know the difference between a remorse for being caught in sin and a godly
sorrow that leads to repentance, one of the differences is there is a renovation
of life, there’s a change of behavior that comes as a part of that process of
repentance. Gospel repentance always
leads to a change of behavior, not just words where we profess to believe one
thing and then act another way, but an actual change of behavior so that our
behavior comes in line to what the Word says.
And though it’s not recorded here, we know that it will be recorded in
the restoration of Peter that Peter not only wept bitterly over his sin, but his
life changed. He did not go on in
this denial. And that teaches us
something about repentance.
Repentance isn’t just feeling badly about sin, it’s not just feeling badly about
the consequences of sin or the embarrassment of sin; it is coming to see the sin
for what it is and recognizing how ugly it is and turning from it and to God.
And Peter does that in this passage.

So where are you being drawn this morning?
What is it that’s being leveraged in your heart to lead you to a great
defection? And do you understand
that you don’t have in you what it takes to resist that kind of sin?
You need God. You need grace.
You need the Lord Jesus Christ.
You need the work of the Holy Spirit.
Don’t you love the way the third question of the membership vows gets it?
“Do you now resolve and promise in humble reliance upon the divine grace
of the Holy Spirit that you will endeavor to live as becomes a follower of our
Lord Jesus Christ?” Are you
depending on the grace of the Holy Spirit?
Do you know that only God’s power at work in you will do?
You know it’s interesting that Jesus had already said to the disciples in
the Upper Room that night, “Apart from Me, you can do nothing.”
That’s why He told them to pray because prayer is an exercise in which we
say, “Apart from You, O God, we can do nothing.
We need Your strength, we need Your favor, we need Your grace, we need
Your power.” So have you recognized
that about your heart, that you’re powerless before that sin and that you need
God’s grace? And have you recognized
that in true repentance you can’t treasure the Savior while you continue to go
on treasuring that sin? As Jesus
said, “You cannot serve God and mammon,” so also you cannot serve God and any
sin. There’s only one Master.
This passage is very timely and very convicting for me and I trust it’s a
word of grace to you, to many of you in here today to see the darkness of our
sin, the greatness of His mercy, and the absolute requirement of repentance.

Let’s pray.

Heavenly Father, our love for You is not enough.
We need a love from You to us that will not let us go.
Grant that to us we pray, in Jesus’ name.
Amen.

Would you turn with me in your hymnals to number 708 and we’ll sing, “O Love
That Wilt Not Let Me Go.”

Apart from Him we can do nothing, but He has not left us to fight the battle on
our own. He has given us grace,
mercy, and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Amen.

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