The passage of Scripture I have chosen for my text is in the Gospel according to Luke, the 22nd chapter, a part of verses 60 and 61. “The cock crew…And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter.”
I am going to try to talk to you about another chance. Not another chance that God will give men beyond the grave, for I do not think there is any other chance after this life. This is the land of opportunity and privilege, and if we do not embrace the offer of salvation here, it will never be offered to us anywhere else. But I am going to speak to you about the numerous chances God gives us sinners for He “is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
One reason why some of us are here today as Christians is because God gave us a good many chances to accept His offer of salvation. I want to speak, particularly, to Christian men to whom God would give another chance, men who have failed in their ministry, men who have failed in Christian testimony.
The God Of Jacob
Some one asked me the other day why it was said in the Scriptures so often, (I think we find it twenty-four different times), that God is the God of Jacob. “The God of Jacob is our refuge.” Three times He is called the “Almighty God of Jacob.”
My reply was that I thought it might be because He wants us to know that He is the God of infinite grace, for no one would have had anything to do with Jacob except one who had infinite grace. Then I said, I think it is because He is the God of infinite patience, for no one would have borne so long with Jacob had he not been a God of infinite patience. Everything came out all right in the life of Jacob in spite of his crookedness and meanness. He prayed and trusted God, and the man who knows how to pray and trust God will eventually become “a prince, having power with God and men.”
I am glad He is my God this morning—the God of Jacob.
The Potter’s House
The Lord said, “Jeremiah, you need an object lesson of my patience and love. I want you to go down to the potter’s house and see him make vessels down there.”
So Jeremiah went down to the potter’s house and observed how the workmen took clay from a great big pile and kneaded it as a woman does her bread. Then one went over to the wheel and put the clay on the wheel to fashion a vessel for his purpose, but, when it came to a certain point, something hard in the clay resisted the touch of the potter, and the clay flew to pieces, over the shop. No marvel in that, but the marvel was that the potter, instead of going back to the pile of clay and getting another lump, went all about the shop gathering up the broken pieces and putting them all together again. He kneaded the clay a little and put it on the wheel once more, and again when it came to a certain place it broke and flew all to pieces, and again the potter gathered up the bits and put them on the wheel, and this time, behold! a vessel for service, a vessel that met his ideal. It passed that place of resistance.
God said, “Jeremiah, do you see that? You are always flying to pieces, and so are these people, but I am always trying to mold them for my glory, for my service, but something resists my touch and you go all to pieces; but I gather you up again.” He is a God of infinite patience. Praise His name forever!
The Fall Of Peter
Well, about the fall and restoration of Peter. You know the four evangelists all tell the story, but there is just a little difference in how they tell it. I have observed frequently that when you come to a difference in the telling of a story by these evangelists there is some lesson to be learned right there.
For instance, every one tells us that the cock crew when Peter denied the Lord, but only one tells us that the Lord looked on Peter. For this you might think the crowing of the cock did it, that is, that the crowing of the cock brought Peter back; but Luke adds this little bit in telling the story, and I think that Peter one day said, “Luke, when you write your story of the life of Jesus, don’t forget to put in at that point of my restoration that it was more than the crowing of the cock. The Lord turned and looked at me just at that moment, and it was that look of the Lord Jesus that brought me back to Him.”
The four evangelists tell about the resurrection, but only one tells us that Jesus said to Mary, when she met Him and received the commission to go and tell His disciples that He would meet them in Galilee, that He added, “And Peter.”It is Mark that adds to His record, and they tell us that Peter helped Mark to write his Gospel. Peter wanted this little bit put in the story. Peter might never have been included in that circle after the resurrection but for these words of Jesus.
I like those little touches. I am glad there are four gospels. I am glad to have these different records. Some tell us that these differences are evidences of the inaccuracy of the Scriptures, but to me they are evidences of the inspiration of the Bible.
When I read of Peter’s fall I think of Paul’s words: “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” If a man like Peter fell, it becomes every child of God to beware lest he fall.
That Peter was a spiritual man there can be no doubt. A man of spiritual insight above his brethren. It was he that made that wonderful confession, you remember, in the sixteenth chapter of Matthew, when Jesus asked, “Whom do men say that I, the Son of God, am?” “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,”said Peter. And Jesus said, “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona,(you have received a vision from heaven) for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in Heaven.”Oh, at last somebody has seen it—at last somebody has caught the vision. Peter, you are a blessed man! Flesh and blood has not revealed it unto you!
So Peter was a man of spiritual insight. Do you think you are in advance of Peter? Peter knew Jesus; Peter knew God, but Peter fell. Then he was a man of sincere vow and consecration. It was Peter who said a few hours before, “If all men forsake thee, yet will not I. I will follow thee to prison, and I will follow thee to death.”
Do you think he was bluffing? No! he meant every word of it, beloved friends, but Peter had to find out how weak the flesh really is. Jesus said, “Watch and pray; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”And it is just as weak today, friends. You may have a willing spirit, a fervent spirit, but the flesh is just as weak today, and there is only one way to victory—watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. In spite of that…
The fifty-fourth verse says, “And Peter followed Him a long way off.” Peter is the kind of a man that must keep up close. Peter cannot dare for a moment to get out of fellowship with Jesus.
I have found friends. It is Himself that saves His people from their sins. You must keep near Him, not simply be loyal to your church, not simply loyal to certain teachings. You may be loyal to certain teachings and yet have no sense of Christ. It is Himself that saves His people from their sins. Let us not forget that.
The World’s Fire
So Peter walked a long way off and the next step down is found in the fact that he stood without the High Priest’s hall and warmed himself in the world’s fire. When they brought Jesus into the courtroom of the High Priest, and in the High Priest’s palace, where the soldiers delivered Him, Peter stood without in the court. It was chilly, and they made a fire out there, and Peter stood without with these soldiers and servants of the world, warming himself at that fire, and the atmosphere was not good for Peter. He was too weak a man to try to live in that atmosphere. So, when a maid came up and said, “Thou art one of His disciples,” he replied, “I am not.”
If you put yourself on the devil’s territory, I do not care what you may have been, you are going to find that you are a weak, yellow coward. If you have never found out that you were weak before, you will find it out after having the approbation of Christ, and then trying to find pleasure with the world. Peter, at that fire in the court, trying to get warm, is the picture of thousands of Christians today who make a profession and warm themselves at the world’s fire. You cannot do it, friends.
So we see here the picture of the first Psalm. First, “walking in the counsel of the ungodly.” Then we find him, “sitting in the seat of the scornful,” and then he is “standing in the way of sinners.” For no man in the world is such a hinderer to the cause of Christ as the man that has once been out for his Lord and who is now denying Him. Peter, you are Christ’s worst enemy! May God help you to find your way back!
A Special Target
I want to say one thing in justice to Peter. He was a special target to the devil that day. Have you ever thought of that? Do you remember what Jesus said that night, “This is your hour,”speaking practically to the devil. “This is your hour and the power of darkness.” It was an awful night and Satan had said, “If I can’t find anything in Jesus, if I can’t bring Him down, I will bring Peter down.” Peter was a shining mark; Peter had a big vision; Peter was a strong character. “If I cannot get Jesus, I will get Peter,” and he made a special request that he might have Peter. Why? Because the devil loves a shining mark.
Someone was talking to me the other day about a big man whom God is greatly using. I said, “You need to pray for that man.”
“Why,” they asked, “do you think he is weak?”
“No,” I replied, “but the devil will make him a special target.”
Satan asked for Peter. “Let me try this man. I heard him say last night that if every man forsook Thee he would not do it. I heard him say he would follow You to death and to prison. Now I will try him. He will not do it if I can help it.”
When the devil turns his battery on you, make up your mind that you are in for a dreadful time. Then you will have a little more sympathy for Peter.
When the devil came to Jesus he found nothing in Him. Jesus said, “The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.”But when he came to Peter he found his poor human heart a tinderbox for his flint. Some of you will remember the days of the tinderbox and flint. Now, there was a lot of tinder in Peter’s heart, and when the devil struck Peter there was a combustion. It is unfortunate that we cannot say with Jesus, “He hath nothing in me.” Let us have sympathy for Peter, for that was the hour of darkness and the power of darkness.
But Peter found his way back home, and I want you to follow him this morning. First of all, the cock crew, but that was not all—the cock crew and Jesus turned and looked on Peter. The cock crowing did not amount to anything without the look of Jesus. I find a great deal of comfort in that. You see what little, mean instruments the Lord will use. It is recorded in the Scriptures that two or three times God used a jackass, and He may have used one several times since. Here he used a cock.
The crowing of the cock brought the vision of Jesus, and that is what counts. I am afraid there is a great deal of cock crowing without any vision of the Christ. It was that look that broke Peter’s heart.
I pray that Jesus may look at us this morning and that some poor Peter might see His face.
The Look Of Jesus
A word or two about that look. It was a proof of His deity. How do I make that out? Did it ever occur to you that Jesus could not, by any means of human reasoning, have heard Peter deny Him? Jesus was in the High Priest’s palace and Peter was away out in the court, where all was commotion and confusion. Jesus knows when you deny Him. He can see a long way off. I want you to take that in. It is a proof of His deity.
It was a look of infinite compassion. When Peter denied Jesus, there came over His spirit the shadow of a great sorrow. I think this happens every time any one of His children deny Him. You remember He said that night, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.”
“One of you shall betray me.” It is not the cross. It is not that death—one of you shall betray Me and My soul is exceedingly sorrowful even unto death. Do you see it?
It was the look of infinite compassion—no bitterness in it. “Peter,” it says, “I am not condemning you. I am praying for you.” Doesn’t it say that? “I know, Peter. I know how hot-blooded you are. I know how disappointed you were out there when you saw Me taken as a criminal. I understand it. I am praying for you.” This is another proof of the compassion of Jesus.
It is Mrs. Browning who makes a mother to say of a poor little child that was born in her house, who never could speak or hear:
“My silent child, I hug thee to my heart,
Just as I did when thou wert born.
It may be sinful, but I love thee best and pray for you longest night and morn.
And when I kneel to pray for a blessing on thy sisters and brothers,
God seems nearest when I pray for thee.”
Evidences Of New Birth
Just a word about Peter’s restoration. He looked at Jesus. That is an evidence that Peter was His child. If you can go away into a far country and feel at home with harlots and live on the stuff that the swine eat, you have never been a child of God. If the new birth is really a fact, you will feel like Peter. You will look back every now and again. You will try to make yourself believe that you are happy and enjoying yourself.
Peter looked at Jesus and men. He did what some of you must do if you would have fellowship with Him.
He Separated Himself
You are never going to be in the place of fellowship if you stay in that crowd. You have got to leave it. That young fellow at the pig trough said, “I am perishing with hunger.” And he will perish with hunger unless he gets up and starts home. The father did not meet him at the pig trough. He did not have any fellowship with him down in that country. He had fellowship with him when he came back.
That is the trouble with a lot of you. You stay with the same old gang and try to warm yourself at the same old fire.
There were some tears shed also. He went out and wept bitterly. If ever I doubted Peter’s love for Jesus, I doubt no more when I see that great, strong, rough fisherman wiping the tears from his eyes. I say, “Peter, I understand. I sympathize with you. I know you loved Him.” Do not get so big that you cannot cry. It is a good thing to weep over our sins. They were bitter tears. There was wormwood in his tears, gall in his tears. He was saying, “God, why did I do it?” I like to hear him say that. It is just how he should feel.
Brother, look at Jesus! Let Him look at you till your heart melts. The tears you shed in His presence will be tears of relief. They will quench the fire that is raging in your brain.
Ashamed To Be Ashamed
Peter learned his lesson well. He was never ashamed again, unless it was that he was ashamed to be ashamed. In the fifth chapter of Acts, when summoned before the same council of men, he had been notified not to speak in the name of Jesus, but he went right on, and they brought him back again and scourged him unmercifully, and said, “Don’t you speak any more in the name of Jesus.”
Peter and John went out from there, and you will remember Peter said to John, “Oh John, isn’t it grand we are accounted worthy to suffer shame for Jesus!”
Do you see that? He was ashamed not to be ashamed. If there is a Peter here this morning, I pray you may get a vision of that face with its compassion, with its pity and with its assurance of power.