September 17, 2023 Peter's Failure

Peter’s Failure and Ours

September 17, 2023


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Read Matthew 26:31-35; 57-58; 63-71.

In these passages we see the great contrast between Christ’s faithfulness and Peter’s lack thereof. Between Christ’s victory over sin and Peter’s succumbing to sin.

Matthew presents to us, throughout his whole gospel, what the kingdom life looks like and what it is not. In chapter 26 he shows us especially that Peter, representing our natural state, is not able to live the kingdom life.

Seeing Peter’s  denial of Christ ought to impress upon us that, in our human life, it is impossible for us to be a kingdom person.


  • Peter, and all the disciples, had been under the Lord’s teaching and training for 3 and a half years. It wasn’t just on Sundays and one day mid-week, such as we are accustomed to in the modern era. They were under his teaching every day… 24/7. They literally slept together, ate together, heard his teaching every day! So many Christians at the present time are mostly Sunday-only Christians.
  • Peter was trained and taught that Christ was the Son of God.
  • He was present at the Mount of Transfiguration. He saw the radiant glory of Christ and he heard the voice from heaven!

If Peter could not succeed in following Christ, who can?

He was so full of confidence during the Lord’s Supper. We can be like that, can’t we? When our fellowship with the Lord is sweet and everything seems to be going well our confidence can be so strong!

But failure looms! If Peter can fall, we can each fall.

Jesus says to Peter in verse 41, “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” Of course, Jesus refers to Peter’s human spirit. Peter desired in his innermost self to obey the Lord in the matter of prayer but his flesh rebelled. This is not only true of Peter. It is true for each one of us.

Peter was afraid of servant girls! First, one comes to him and says that Peter was with Jesus. Peter lies and says that he was not (vss. 69-70). Then he goes outside to get away from the suspicions and he is confronted by another girl. This time he swears by an oath that he does not even know Jesus!

Then, a third time, some bystanders also accuse him of being a companion of Jesus. What does Peter do? He “curses and swears!” (vs. 74) Can you imagine? He is so adamant about his denial of Jesus that he call down curses and swears!


Of course, Peter was restored and changed into a man of victory. But his sin is one of the greatest recorded in the Bible.


This ought to be an encouragement to us. For our own sins and failures can weigh heavily upon us. This was King David’s experience:

Have mercy on me, O God,

according to your steadfast love;

       according to your abundant mercy

blot out my transgressions.

2     Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,

and cleanse me from my sin!

3     For I know my transgressions,

and my sin is ever before me. [1]


Whatever your sin has been or whatever it is or whatever it will be, it is less egregious than Peter’s sin.


When we fall into a sin, as Peter did, what ought we to do? I am going to give seven simple steps that can lift us out of the great discouragement that sin can bring. However, you must know that these seven encouragements are not meant for the person who has not yet been forgiven of all their sins. That is to say, every person who ever lived begins life in rebellion against God and is under the severe displeasure of God until they come to Christ for salvation. If you have not yet surrendered your life to Christ then these encouragements are not for you. What you must do is repent of all your sins. This means to renounce them and turn away from them. Then you place your faith in Christ, believing in his vicarious sacrifice at the cross which takes away all your sins.


For those who already belong to Christ, here is what we ought to do:


[1] Do not be discouraged. Of course, it is easy to become discouraged because we love the Lord and we do not wish to displease him. Consider Judas’s reaction to his sin in contrast to Peter’s. Initially, their reactions were similar. Peter “cried bitterly” (vs. 75, LSB). Judas was also full of sorrow and regret. Judas remained in his supreme discouragement and committed suicide. Peter repented and was restored.[2]

One of Martin Luther’s most famous quotes is worthy of mention here. It is the most controversial thing he ever wrote and has been both attacked and misunderstood. When I first heard this quote as a new Christian I was shocked, even rocked. And, if you have never heard it, you will be also. But let us learn what he was really saying.

The controversial quote is this: “Sin boldly, but let your trust in Christ be stronger.”[3]


When Luther wrote, “sin boldly,” he did not mean that we should enter into temptation with a bold attitude of sinning anyway. We know this from his many other writings wherein he encouraged his readers to resist sin in every form. Rather, he meant that, once we have fallen into a sin, we ought not to cower in defeat but we fully trust in Christ’s forgiveness and press on. If you read the full context this becomes clear.


So, step one is not to be discouraged.


[2] We must confess our sin. To confess is to agree with God against ourselves. We do not need to do penance (some act of contrition that earns our forgiveness, as taught by the Roman Catholic Church), but we do need to simply confess. I believe that every true believer knows this already, but we must not neglect this.


[3] Once we confess, his promise is that he fully forgives us (I John 1:9). We trust in the promise that God gave (of being forgiven). We take God at his word and God cannot lie.


[4] Recognize that some of the greatest people of God in the Bible were derailed by sin for a time. Think of David. Are you better than David? Think of Jonah. Think of Samson. And Peter of whom we speak. If you have fallen, you are in good company!


[5] Pray the Psalms. Do you know what the best prayers are? The best prayers are the words of God Himself being prayed back to him. You can pray any verse of the Bible back to God. But the Psalms are particularly good since these are King David’s prayers to God to begin with (along with a few other Psalmists).


In this regard, the “Psalms of lament” are particularly good to pray. These are the prayers of David when he was confronted with his own sin. They are:


Psalm 6

Psalm 32

Psalm 38

Psalm 51

Psalm 102

Psalm 143

You can personalize them:

Bless the Lord, O my soul,

and all that is within me,

bless his holy name!

2     Bless the Lord, O my soul,

and forget not all his benefits,

3     who forgives all your iniquity,

who heals all your diseases,

4     who redeems your life from the pit,

who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,

5     who satisfies you with good

so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. [4]


(See also 103:8-13; 130:1-4.)


[6] Pray the Jesus Prayer. Those who were in my Sunday School class on Matthew two years ago recall that I advocated this prayer more than once.


The Jesus Prayer has been practiced by the Eastern Orthodox church for a millennia! It has only recently been discovered by evangelicals, but it is thoroughly biblical. It is this:


“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”


(See I Cor 12:3 and Luke 18:14 showing the biblical foundations for the prayer.)


It is universally recommended that this short prayer be said out loud (not silently) at least ten times in succession. This simple prayer has changed lives! Try it!


[7] Finally, it would be counter-productive to conduct these practices, feel better, but then go back to your sin! Our goal and God’s goal is our sanctification. Therefore, you must remove yourself from temptation in the future. Don’t expose yourself to temptation! In other words, truly repent.


I am convinced that these seven practices will grant you victory in your walk with the Lord and help you greatly in overcoming discouragement.


Remember Peter. Not just his failure, but his victory! You are him!





[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 51:1–3). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2] There is no verse that tells us that Peter repented, but this is obviously what he did since repentance is the pathway to restoration as is testified by many dozens of pasages throughout Scripture. And we see in Acts chapters one and two that Peter is not only in good standing but even takes the lead.


[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 103:1–5). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.