28 November 2021
Book: Mark

How to Recover From a Train Wreck

Bible Passage: Mark 14:65-72

Peter denied Jesus 3 times before sunrise in spite of all claims of loyalty. How can we recover from blatant failures in our walk with God?

  • Series: Salvation Dawns
  • Discussion Guide: None this week.
  • Recharge: A Story of Failure and Conviction

Peter’s Failure and Recovery

 

In Mark 14:26-52, Jesus told the disciples they would all deny Him, of which they all rejected the idea that they would ever do such a thing. However, no one stated it more emphatically than Peter. How do we know Peter was the most emphatic about the impossibility of rejecting Christ, well because Mark’s Gospel (Peter being the primary source) tells us so!

 

27 And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ 28 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 29 Peter said to him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” 30 And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” 31 But he said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same. (Mark 14:27-31)

 

If you were with us two weeks ago, right after all those testosterone-driven statements of loyalty and character, Jesus went into the Garden of Gethsemane and asked His disciples to join Him in prayer and they totally failed. 

 

They instead went to sleep! They totally failed to engage with the burden resting on Jesus as He cried out “Abba Father take this cup from me.” 

 

Even though He told them He was under such weight it felt like He was going to die; even though He was literally sweating blood (found in Luke’s account); they totally failed to recognize the moment and took a nap! 

 

The same guys who said under NO circumstance would they ever abandon Him or deny knowing Him, to the point they would die for him, couldn’t even engage in prayer with Jesus when He was under so much stress that He was sweating blood! 

 

Then, just as Jesus warned them when the Roman Cohort and Temple guards ushered Jesus off, they all “fled.” Now, to Peter’s credit, he ran away but then regrouped and apparently discretely followed the guards to where they took Jesus. 

 

He quietly made his way into the outdoor courtyard of the home of the high priest where they were holding this total farce of a trial so that he could see what was happening. 

 

There is no attempt by Peter to enter the house and get involved in the proceedings or even volunteer as a witness (which they were actively seeking), but to his credit, unlike the other guys, Peter was at least concerned enough to try and find out what was going on.

 

But that’s where the compliments have to stop. Peter, who had claimed he would die for Jesus before he would ever deny him, is about to fall off the very cliff he insisted was impossible for him to get near. 

 

Let me walk you through this truly epic train wreck. It’s a train wreck that you can see coming, that you and I can likely relate to, and thank God, it’s one that has an incredibly encouraging ending.

 

There are four stages to Peter’s spiritual train wreck in Mark 14:66-72. 

 

Stage 1 – The Dumb Phase. Peter literally played dumb. (14:66-68)

 

66 And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, 67 and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” 

 

“Typical of Roman villas and larger Mediterranean homes of the time, Caiaphas’s courtyard (vv. 54, 66) would have been an open atrium enclosed by the rooms of the surrounding house. The reference to Peter “below” (v. 66) indicates that Jesus’ trial took place in a room above the courtyard.”1

 

One of the high priest’s servant girls, presumably the inner courtyard’s doorkeeper (cf. John 18:16) approached Peter while he warmed himself by the fire in the courtyard (cf. Mark 14:54; 15:16) which apparently was below the upstairs room where Jesus’ trial was taking place.”2

 

The contrast of what’s taking place is hard to miss. Jesus has every religious leader in Jerusalem working together to find him guilty of something that will convince the Romans to execute him. 

 

Meanwhile, a servant girl, with no status, no money, no power, and no authority, sees Peter and says, hey, I recognize you; you also were with the Nazarene. As in, there were a bunch of people following Jesus and listening to his teaching and you were one of them.

 

Listen, for all we know she just wanted to learn about what it is Jesus taught. She could have simply been wanting to know more about the man on trial in her employer’s house! This was an amazingly unusual event. Trials were not allowed at night, and they never took place at the High Priest’s house! So, for all, we know she just wanted to understand who this Jesus was and what’s going on!

 

What a killer opportunity for Peter to do exactly what he said he would do! What a killer opportunity for him to very safely just start teaching the folks standing around the fire about who Jesus said He was, the miracles He did proving it and the sermons He preached that taught us what to do with it! 

 

But no! Here’s how the brave Peter responds!

 

68 But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway and the rooster crowed. 

 

He played dumb! He literally just said I don’t know what you mean, as in I have no idea what you’re talking about. Who is Jesus of Nazareth and you what do mean by being “one of those” who was with him? 

 

Peter then walks away from the fire and moves over toward the gate to avoid any further inquiry. You can almost see it. The sun hasn’t come up yet. It’s still totally dark. The air is cold and dry. There is a stillness in the streets and the sky. The birds are not flying around, the animals are not wondering about, and people haven’t begun to wake up. 

 

Then suddenly, a lone rooster flexes his wings, stretches his throat, looks to the sky, and lets out a massive opportunity for Peter. His unmistakable crow rings through the night air and not only signals the soon coming rise of the sun but more importantly gives Peter the opportunity to remember the conversation he and Jesus had just had a handful of hours ago on the way to the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane.

 

But Peter not only denies even understanding what the lady meant by her question, but he even lies to himself. There is no way he couldn’t hear the cry of the rooster! 

 

The cry of the rooster is his alarm telling him you have a chance to walk back over to that fire and start sharing the greatest news ever told. You have a chance, right now to just say, oh wait, I know what you meant. Yes, I was with him, and let me tell you all about Him!

 

Peter has a chance to start defending Jesus by proclaiming the Gospel. He has a chance right here to start telling everybody this guy, Jesus of Nazareth, is the Messiah! He is the Son of God! He has healed people, walked on water, quieted the storms, cast out demons, and raised the dead! 

 

We don’t need to put Him on trial, we need to bow down and worship Him! He had the chance right there in the courtyard of the High Priest’s home to do exactly what he said He would do, but instead, he played dumb and then tried to move to a different spot in hopes that the servant girl would forget about him!

 

Have you ever been accused of being a follower of Christ and you just played dumb? 

 

Have you ever had an opportunity to say no to sin, but you played dumb and allowed yourself to believe that what you were doing wasn’t actually sin or that you weren’t actually doing it? 

 

The dumb phase can only last so long. As soon as that rooster crowed, he couldn’t play dumb anymore. That rooster might as well have been a huge flashing billboard that said Peter, what are you doing? You need to slow down in this turn because the cars are about to come off the track!

 

This then leads to the 2nd stage of the train wreck!

Stage 2 – The Intentional Phase. Peter outright rejected the accusation of being a follower of Christ. (14:69-70a)

 

69 And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” 70 But again he denied it. 

 

Verse 70 makes it clear that Peter’s reset of his location was not to consider what he was doing but to try and avoid the question. But this servant girl is persistent!

 

Peter is given a second chance to do the right thing, the thing he emphatically said he would do! His previous statement left the door cracked for him to get this right, but instead of walking through the door, he shuts it! 

 

He has not outright rejected being a follower of Christ, he just said he didn’t know what she was talking about, which is absolutely a denial, but it’s a denial that left the door cracked for him to say he now understood the question. 

 

But verse 70 tells us he now flat out denies being a follower of Jesus. He just heard the rooster crow to alert him the train was getting ready to come off the tracks, and instead of heeding the warning, he sped the train up! He moves from playing dumb to outright intentional denial.

 

Sin is crouching at the door to destroy us; it is a roaring lion that has no intention of giving up its attack on our soul and the irony is it has no intention of letting us play dumb. Sin demands our allegiance the same way Christ does. Sin wants no part of you saying yes to God, it will keep coming after you to devour you.

 

Just like this servant girl, who had no intention of letting Peter wander off and avoid the question, sin will pursue you and force you to choose. It will not allow you to simply wander through life acting like you don’t know what you’re doing because sin wants to be your god. Sin and Satan are a slave master that sees you as the slave, that wants you in their chains and service.

 

So, when we ignore the crow of the rooster and we find ourselves unable to play dumb anymore, we are left with nothing more than the obvious recognition that we are choosing to say no to a Holy and eternally Loving God; and yes to a disgusting, shameful enemy that feeds us temporary pleasure so that it can destroy us from the inside out. 

 

When we do this, the sparks start flying as the wheels of the train bind against the tracks. The tracks start to heat up and flex. As we move into this intentional phase everything is now primed and ready for stage three.

 

Stage 3 – The Rage Phase. Peter was so insistent that he wasn’t a disciple of Christ that he angrily put God’s name on the line as a guarantee! (14:70b-71)

 

And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” 71 But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” 

 

Surely (lit., “truly,” despite his denials) you are one of them (the disciples), for (“because”) you are (“also,” in Gr.) a Galilean. Galileans spoke an Aramaic dialect with noticeable differences in pronunciation (cf. Matt. 26:73).”3

 

Apparently, the questioning of this servant girl has started chatter among those who are gathered in the courtyard of the High Priest and as such, they start interacting with Peter. As they do, they likely begin to notice his accent and dialect, and therefore start realizing the absurdity that he claims to not even know who Jesus of Nazareth is! It’s not reasonable at all that Peter has no idea who he is, therefore, the people around the fire realize he must be lying!

 

Peter then responds in a way that makes the train cars start flying off the tracks! Peter literally and angrily invokes God as his guarantee that he is telling the truth about knowing nothing about God’s Son! He uses God’s name to sell out God’s Son!! 

 

And get this, he doesn’t even have the courage to say the name of Jesus as he does it! he kept saying “this man”!

 

The Religious leaders accused Jesus of blasphemy but in all actuality, it was Peter who was committing blasphemy!

 

Peter has literally just committed apostasy (rejecting Jesus), and He did so in the name of God. He even went to the extent of inviting God to damn him if he was lying! 

 

“… his threefold denial of any relationship with Jesus renders him an apostate. He renounces his faith in Jesus! He also disobeys Jesus’ teaching about not using an oath to certify the truth of a statement (Matt. 5:33–37; compare Matt. 23:16–22; James 5:12).”4

 

The friction between the wheels and the rails has now been overcome. The track has got so hot it has flexed too far. The first train car jumps off the rails and it has started an unstoppable domino effect in the life of the rest of the cars following suit! He has ignored his opportunity for escape and pressed right through it and the results are the train cars are now coming off the tracks and stage 4 is unavoidable!

Stage 4 – The Impact Phase. The 2nd crow of the rooster brought Peter face to face with the full reality of his betrayal. (14:72)

 

72 And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.

 

The first time the rooster crowed Peter was by himself with nobody around him. The first crow was an alarm. It was an opportunity.

 

But, the second time the rooster crowed he was standing in the middle of a small crowd of people questioning him. Tension was high, voices were raised, and emotions were stirred. Instead of the crow of the rooster echoing through the quiet, this time it came as the train cars were slamming into each other, tumbling across the ground and falling down the cliff smashing into the valley below. 

 

At that point in history, no ear had ever heard the explosion of a cannon or a bomb. Gun powder wasn’t invented until the 9th century. But, I would have to guess, the 2nd crow of that rooster sounded as loud as any bomb that hit and exploded in a building in WW2, as loud as any multi-car train wreck slamming into each other; because not only did he hear the belting cry of the crow but as he did, he looked up and saw Jesus looking right at him!

 

“Peter also saw Jesus looking down at him (Luke 22:61).”5

 

I can only imagine how loud that moment was. In the midst of all that tension and chaos, the crack of that rooster merged together with the sight of Jesus up above him on a balcony literally looking at him. Peter knows the one whom he loved at just saw and heard him swear by God’s name that he had no knowledge of Jesus whatsoever. 

 

As Jesus endured one false witness after another, one lie crafted to get Him killed after another; He then saw one of his closest disciples use the Father’s name as a guarantee that he had nothing to do with Him!

 

“This was a nightmare for the apostle, the one to whom Jesus had said, “I tell you that you are Peter [Petros/Rock] and on this rock [petra, referring to his great confession of faith] I will build my church …” (Matthew 16:18). Now Peter, the rock, had cracked and failed!”6

 

The chaos and intensity of the moment are replaced with a singular emotion – shame. As the train smashed into the valley below all he could do was walk away from Caiaphas house and weep uncontrollably. His opportunity for victory ended in the agony of total and complete defeat.

 

So, what do we do? Do we just walk away from Jesus? Is it all over? When I’ve rejected Jesus and chose sin, am I done? Worse, when I’ve rejected Jesus at such a level that I have made a complete train wreck of my life and testimony; is it over? 

 

Well, let’s go back a minute in the story; it actually likely happened about 8 hours earlier at the Mount of Olives.

 

27 And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ 28 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.”  (Mark 14:27-28)

 

Jesus had already told them they were going to fail, but He also told them He was going to forgive them! Before Jesus even went to the cross, He knew the measure of their failure. He knew they would all deny him, but Peter’s would be the worst! 

 

So, he told them upfront, I will still come to you! You will run from me, even flee from me; you will even deny ever knowing me, but I will not deny you; I will not run from you, but I will do just the opposite! 

 

And listen that’s exactly what happened! When Jesus rose from the grave he came and found his boys! In John’s Gospel Jesus assures Peter three different times that nothing has changed in His relationship with him – let’s go feed my sheep, Peter.

 

In a couple of weeks will see the angel in the tomb tell a woman who ran into the empty tomb to go back and tell the guys, and specifically Peter that Jesus is going to meet with ya’ll in Galilee!

 

But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” (Mark 16:7). 

 

“By rights, the apostate Peter should have been removed from fellowship with Jesus and his followers after the resurrection, but his reinstatement is implied by the angel in 16:7, “But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him” (compare 14:28). Elsewhere in the New Testament, we read of a special resurrection appearance to Peter (Luke 24:34; 1 Cor. 15:5; see also John 21). The book of Acts testifies to the powerful leadership exerted by the forgiven Peter.”7

 

Go tell everybody, but be sure not to forget Peter because that man is feeling like a piece of garbage right now! More than anybody he really needs to know that it wasn’t just his betrayal that cost Christ His life, and he needs to know that Jesus defeated death and won anyway! Your mistake didn’t cost the team the game!

 

You can almost hear the thoughts of Peter when that news came to him! The train cars are stacked up everywhere in the bottom of the valley smashed to pieces! You were beaten, wiped, and shamefully crucified and all I did was make it worse! 

 

All I did was hurl another blow to your face, pluck more hair from your beard, rip more flesh from your back and drive the stake deeper into your hands and feet! How is it that you still love me? How is it that you want to meet me and continue forward as if none of that happened!

 

It’s crazy amazing when you see God work things out after we trashed everything with our sin! That He restores things to better than they were. It doesn’t justify our living in sin, but it does show us that even our sin doesn’t have authority over God, that is still used by God for our good and His glory, and most importantly to us, that He never stops loving us and calling us His own!

 

Are you in one of those stages of a spiritual train wreck? No matter what stage you are in you have the opportunity to experience restoration and redemption! How?

Challenge: Repent.

Confess your sin as sin! 

 

Take full ownership of it and as such don’t blame somebody else. Don’t amplify or lower the severity. Call it what it is. Don’t amplify it to create more drama but don’t lower it to avoid the reality of what it really is.

 

Confide in somebody you trust who loves Jesus.

 

Confess it to the circle of influence that the sin exists. Tune in to Wed night’s RECHARGE for more on this!

 

Stop digging the hole and turn around! 

 

Stop doing what you’re are doing.

 

Believe God’s grace is better than shame. 

 

Believe that God has truly forgiven you. Believe that Christ’s death has consumed all the wrath of God on your sin so that you understand what it means to truly be forgiven! He will not abandon you or give up on you or quit loving you. His forgiveness doesn’t return us to a state of neutrality whereby He just tolerates us being around but He restores us!

 

Follow JESUS! Get up and move forward with Him!

 

“As the beloved Vance Havner put it: “The Lord had the strength and I had the weakness, so we teamed up! It was an unbeatable combination.”8

 

Footnotes

  1. Edwards, J. R. (2002). The Gospel according to Mark (p. 449). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos.
  2. Grassmick, J. D. (1985). Mark. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 184). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  3. Hare, D. R. A. (1996). Mark. (P. D. Miller & D. L. Bartlett, Eds.) (p. 204). Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.
  4. Hare, D. R. A. (1996). Mark. (P. D. Miller & D. L. Bartlett, Eds.) (p. 204). Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.
  5. Grassmick, J. D. (1985). Mark. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 184). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  6. Hughes, R. K. (1989). Mark: Jesus, servant and savior (Vol. 2, p. 183). Westchester, IL: Crossway Books.
  7. Hare, D. R. A. (1996). Mark. (P. D. Miller & D. L. Bartlett, Eds.) (p. 204). Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.
  8. Hughes, R. K. (1989). Mark: Jesus, servant and savior (Vol. 2, p. 184). Westchester, IL: Crossway Books.