Greg's Blog

Learning From Simon Peter’s Denial

by Greg Laurie on Mar 22, 2024

We all know the famous commercial that says, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” Have you ever felt that way spiritually? 

The truth is that you can get back up, and you must get back up if you’ve fallen. 

The Bible tells of Simon Peter, a full-fledged apostle, who did fall but was ultimately restored.  Let’s see what we can learn. 

Peter’s Mistakes Leading Up to Denying Jesus

On the night Judas Iscariot betrayed Him, Jesus told the disciples, “‘All of you will desert me. For the Scriptures say, ‘God will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ But after I am raised from the dead, I will go ahead of you to Galilee and meet you there’” (Mark 14:27–28 NLT).

But Peter said, “‘Even if everyone else deserts you, I never will’” (Mark 14:29 NLT).

Then Jesus told him, “‘I tell you the truth, Peter—this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny three times that you even know me’” (Mark 14:30 NLT). Peter was going to have a fall, and Jesus told him he was going to.

Peter Was Overly Self-Confident

Peter’s first step down was self-confidence. He was placing over confidence in himself, directly contradicting what Jesus said, and almost boasting at the expense of others: “‘Even if everyone else deserts you, I never will’” (Mark 14:29 NLT).  

It’s never a good idea to boast about how much you love God. Rather, boast about how much He loves you. Our love is fickle, but God’s love for us is consistent.

Peter was about to learn that pride goes before a fall.

Peter Didn’t Pray When Told  

Peter’s second step down was falling asleep when he should have been doing as Jesus asked of him and the two other disciples.

“He told them, ‘My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me’” (Matthew 26:38 NLT). 

Jesus came back only to find them sleeping, “Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, ‘Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!’” (Matthew 26:40–41 NLT). But, again, He found them sleeping when He returned.

We must not forget that prayer’s not only for petitioning to receive something, but for protection and preparation for something that’s coming.

Jesus was preparing the disciples. He knew a storm was brewing, that in a matter of moments the lives of the disciples were going to change forever. He knew His arrest was coming soon.

I want to note that it can be a sin to not pray. James 4:17 says, “Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it” (NLT). If the Lord is showing you to pray about something, you better pray about it!

Peter Trusted in Human Effort

Peter’s third step down was trusting in human effort instead of God’s power. 

We read in Matthew 26:51–53, “But one of the men with Jesus pulled out his sword and struck the high priest’s slave, slashing off his ear. ‘Put away your sword, Jesus told him. ‘Those who use the sword will die by the sword. Don’t you realize that I could ask my Father for thousands of angels to protect us, and he would send them instantly?’” (NLT).

I suppose it’s commendable that Peter wanted to help Jesus, but he was going about it in the wrong way. He couldn’t get it right; he was boasting when he should have been listening, he was sleeping when he should have been praying—and now he was fighting when he should have been surrendering. 

Peter Followed at a Distance

Peter’s next step down was following at a distance, “Meanwhile, Peter followed him at a distance and came to the high priest’s courtyard. . .” (Matt 26:58 NLT).

Distance from the Lord and fellowship is at the heart of every fall. Peter was still following, but at a distance. Granted, it was more than some of the others could say, but he was at a distance. 

This is the problem with some people of the church, they follow at a distance. They’re late to church, early to leave, etc.

But when you follow at a distance you increase your vulnerability. Think about it: If the devil sees everyone moving together, then sees the half-hearted person following behind at a distance, that’s a much easier prey to catch. 

Peter Was in the Wrong Place

We see the fifth step to Peter’s fall in Luke 22:54–61 as Peter joins the enemy’s fire. 

He was now in the wrong place, with the wrong people.

And when you hang out in the wrong places, with the wrong people, it’s just a matter of time before you do the wrong thing. That’s what happened to Peter. He would ultimately deny Jesus three times while there.

Are you like Peter in this way? There’s still time to commit yourself to the Lord, even if you’ve messed up. You can do it now.

Final Takeaways From Peter

Maybe you’ve fallen away spiritually. . . The past can’t be changed, but our response to it can be. God can take what we believe is our end and turn it into a new beginning.

Peter may have thought he would never do anything for God again, but God had other plans. 

In John 21:15–17 we read, “After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ Peter replied, ‘you know I love you.’ ‘Then feed my lambs,’ Jesus told him. Jesus repeated the question: ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ Peter said, ‘you know I love you.’ ‘Then take care of my sheep,’ Jesus said. A third time he asked him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, ‘Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Then feed my sheep’” (NLT).

Feed my sheep. You know what that means? Peter was back in business. Jesus not only forgave Him, He recommissioned him for service again. 

Peter’s story is a reminder that anybody can fall into sin, but it’s possible to get back up; Jesus can forgive you and you can start a new relationship with Him, too.

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