- Sermon Notes
In the Darkest Night
Intro: The worst night!
This morning we continue in Matthew 26 which shows a very dark night in Jesus’ life. Not only was it dark outside as the sky had turned from the light of day to the dark of night. But a dark night spiritually and metaphorically as Jesus would be betrayed by a friend, soldiers would come to seize Him, and ultimately after many trials, the sentence of death by crucifixion would be given to Him. Though He was innocent, He would be sentenced to die a criminal’s death. It was the darkest of nights, but this dark night would cast light on the breadth, length, and depth of love Jesus Christ had for us in laying down His life.
While this dark night is something that we look back on, it is something that Jesus’ disciples would live through, and it seems they would question and wonder all the way through, how they would ever make it through.
It was on this dark night that one of Jesus’ very closest disciples named Peter, would deny Him three times. It is of this night, Peter could surely say, “this is the darkest night of my life.” So dark, that after his denials of Christ, he would go out and weep bitterly with great sorrow. But what we will see is that sorrow would not be the end of Peter’s story.
Read: Matthew 26:57-75
There is a great deal going on in these verses. There is the reality of Jesus betrayal, arrest, trial, death by crucifixion, and the power of His resurrection.
There is also the situation His disciples are in associated with the way things are headed. We looked at Jesus betrayal two weeks ago and last week we looked at the Garden of Gethsemane, as Jesus willingly surrendered to the will of the Father and the importance of this in your life and mine.
Next week we will look at the specifics associated with Jesus’ trial. But this week we are going to look specifically at Peter’s situation, what led to His falling away, the sorrow that set in, but we will see that the sorrow was not the end.
There are many specifics for us to see regarding Peter’s situation, but it is in verse 58 that we are given a sign that Peter might deny Jesus. What we read in verse 58 is that Peter began following Jesus at a distance. In the difficulty of this dark night, Peter distanced himself.
I. Stay Close to Christ
- Peter started out close to Christ, but it would change throughout this difficult night.
- Earlier in the evening, Jesus had told His disciples that they would all fall away from Him that night (31). His words were in accordance with Scripture.
Zechariah 13:7, Strike the Shepherd and the sheep will be scattered…
- This is what is about to happen, I told you “I am the good shepherd,” and that “the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). Well, as prophesied in Zechariah, the Shepherd is about to be struck and the sheep will scatter…You will all fall away, and it is going to happen tonight.
- Peter took exception to the direction. He disagreed with Jesus, “even if they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away!
- Peter, at hearing what was ahead from the Lord was essentially saying, “Your words are true about all the others, but not about me!” and Jesus would essentially say in return, “I know you better than you know you!”
Matthew 26:34, Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you that this very night, before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.”
- Peter hears this, and quickly responded, “even if I have to die with You, I will not deny you” (35)
- Jesus then took His disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane and prayed to the Father. He asked Peter, James and John to keep watch and pray, but they continued to fall asleep.
- In verse 47, Judas came with a large crowd to betray Jesus and he betrayed him with a kiss and have him arrested (48-49).
- Matthew refers to the group as a “large crowd.” In John 18:3, we are told that Judas brought officers from the chief priests, the Pharisees, and a Roman cohort which is 600 Roman soldiers. Over 600 men with swords and clubs come to apprehend Jesus.
- And Peter, in that moment is ready to fight for Jesus as he took out his sword and lopped off the ear of the high priest’s servant named Malchus (John 18:10). Many believe Peter was trying to take off the man’s head but proved in that moment to be a better fisherman than swordsman!
- From Luke 22:51 and Matthew 26:52 we know that at that point Jesus spoke up with these words, “Stop! No more of this! Put your sword back in its place; for all who live by the sword shall die by the sword.” Jesus then rescued Peter by healing the man’s ear at that moment.
- Jesus told Peter to put his sword away, that this was happening because the Scriptures said it must happen this way.
- And as Jesus is led away, as things are not turning out the way Peter hoped, he was willing to fight, but Jesus was not willing for Peter to fight in his own way and in his own strength.
- As things began to go differently, Peter is still seen following Jesus, but he is following Him distantly.
Matthew 26:58, Peter was following Him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and he came inside and sat down with the officers to see the outcome.
- The one who was once so close, willing to die before denying Jesus, was now seeing Jesus taken to be tried and as his transition from being willing to give his life, to following at a distance is important for you and I.
- It is evident that Peter was still following Jesus, but as this night got darker and darker, the distance between Peter and Jesus becomes greater and greater.
- And many, in the dark nights of their lives, when things go differently than the way they wanted, when they are unable to handle things in their own way, or in their own strength, like Peter, they often begin following Jesus from a distance.
- But it is in that distance, within that space we leave between where things can begin to seem different, or we forget Jesus’ words in the darkness of a difficult night.
Psalm 73:26,28, My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all Your works.
- The Psalmist recognized His own weakness, that his own flesh may fail, but He also recognized God’s strength.
- Because our flesh and heart may fail, and God is strong, it is the nearness of God we need in our lives.
- Rather than follow at a distance, we need to be those who go the distance, knowing that mere willingness is not going to be enough.
Ephesians 6:10, Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.
- Paul tells us to “be strong in the Lord.” Since there is a battle going on, a war being waged, we need not only know where our strength comes from, but where to find it. Paul does not simply say, “be strong,” He points us to the place to find our strength in the face of what we face. He tells us to “be strong in the Lord.”
- Last week we saw as Jesus told Peter specifically, to watch and pray, reminding him that “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (41).
- As noted last week, our willing spirit is not enough, it must be empowered by the Holy Spirit.
James 4:8, Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.
- Watch Your Steps
- Your steps reflect your reality. This was certainly true for Peter, and it is interesting how Psalm 1 depicts the path of blessing in a person’s life.
Psalm 1:1-3, Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.
- We can draw a great deal from Peter in watching his steps on that night.
- Of those that are blessed, the Psalmist wrote, blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked…
- As noted earlier, from verse 58 in Matthew 26, we understand that Peter was walking at a distance from Christ.
- Next the Psalmist wrote, “Blessed” is the one who does not stand in the way of sinners…
- From John 18:18, we know that as the officers and servants of the high priest started a fire to warm themselves, “Peter was also with them, standing and warming himself.”
- The Psalmist continued, nor sit in the company of mockers…
- From Luke 22:55 and Matthew 26:58, we know also that the officers sat down together at the fire while Jesus stood trial and was sitting there with them.
- Peter is sitting there amongst the mockers, and we are told his goal is to see what the outcome for Christ would be.
- Clearly on the path he had pursued that night he had gone from “I would never walk away or deny thee..” to “I’ll just sit over here with the mockers and watch from my seat…”
- Peter would see the following (Matthew 26:59-64):
- Many false witnesses came forth with clear lies, and finally two come forward with a partial truth that was a whole lie…“This man stated, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to rebuild it in three days.’”
- What Jesus actually said is found in John 2:21 where, referring to Himself, He said, “Destroy THIS temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
- Jesus was referring to His own body.
- While asking Jesus about the accusation, Jesus the Messiah, remained silent which is another fulfilled prophesy (Isaiah 53:7).
- They expected Him to defend Himself, so far the trial was not going well because it was a partial truth…In asking for His defense, they hope He would say something that would make their case for them.
- After Jesus gave no defense and said nothing, the high priest said to Him, “I place You under oath by the living God, to tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said it yourself…”
- He then points the high priest to what is ahead… “But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
- The high priest had then heard enough and accused him of blasphemy. The people declared that Jesus “deserved death!”
- Jesus was mocked by the mockers, in verses 67 to 68 we see that those who had Jesus in custody spit in His face, beating him with their fists, other slapped Him and said “Prophesy to us, You Christ who is the one who hit you?”
- Peter, sitting amongst another set of mockers was looking on from a distance, and after walking the wrong path, standing in the wrong way, seated, and surrounded by the wrong company he denies Jesus three times, just as Jesus said it would be.
- Peter is looking on from a distance, seemingly comforting himself by warming up with the fire of the officers and making every effort to warm up to the wrong fire.
- Peter first acts as if he does not know what the girl who first asks him is suggesting.
- He then gets up and goes to the gateway, and another girl identifies him… “This man was with Jesus!” He then denies it with an oath… “I swear I don’t know Him!”
- Another bystander would come and identify him, saying it was evident in the way he spoke. Peter then began to curse and swear in an attempt try some way, somehow to prove something different than what they, and he, knew reality to be.
- Jesus had warned Peter of what was ahead, but Peter was in disbelief and denial of his coming denial.
- Peter was so sure in himself, that he would never misstep, that he did not watch his steps. Wanting to blend in and warm himself with the wrong fire, he lost sight of his missteps.
- We must be careful that watch our steps and live as God’s word directs.
1 Peter 5:8, Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith…
- Peter was the one who wrote these words, and surely he wrote them because he knew the importance of standing firm in the faith after he himself fell away and denied Jesus three times.
- And Peter could write these words to you and to me, because through Peter’s story we also see that if we would turn back to Christ, our missteps don’t get the final say in our own story.
- Give Him the Final Say in Your Situation
Matthew 26:75, And Peter remembered the statement that Jesus had made: “Before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.
- From Luke 22:61, we learn that at that moment, when Peter denied Jesus for the third time heard the crow of the rooster, that Jesus turned and looked at Peter.
- Peter’s heart at that point, was broken.
- He remembered Jesus’ words, went out and wept bitterly.
- Filled with sorrow he would go. Try to find a way forward in light of his own failure. Surely the realization that his own strength was not enough, his own willingness or revealing his true weakness.
- But in Jesus, He would ultimately find forgiveness.
1 John 1:9, If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
- Peter’s sorrow would point Him back to Christ and He would be forgiven.
2 Corinthians 7:9-10, For you were made sorrowful according to the will of God… For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.
- Earlier we saw just give the sorrow of the world the final say, it led him to death. It is the sorrow that says you have failed, you have made mistakes, you betrayed, you walked away and for you, death is the only way.
- But for Peter, as he went out and wept bitterly, there was a sorrow welling up in him that led him back to Christ, and back to salvation.
- What happened immediately when Peter failed on his darkest night is essential for you and for me…Luke 22:61 He saw Jesus and remembered the Word of the Lord.
- And that is what we need in our most difficult day and darkest night. We need to see Jesus, and remember his Word so that He will have the final say.
Illus. 3 Strikes?
- Though Peter denies Jesus three times, Jesus would come to Peter in John 21 and given him the opportunity to proclaim his love for Christ three times. Jesus would not give failure the final say.
Lamentations 3:21-24, This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. The Lord’s mercies indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.”
- I have heard it said, “You could sum up Peter’s life in three stages, at the fire, under fire, and on fire.” He was warming himself at the wrong fire that night. He was under fire.
- But the Holy Spirit will come upon him after Jesus gets risen from the dead, he’ll be recommissioned, and we will see him on fire, and he’ll be unstoppable.
John 1:4-5, In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
1 Peter 2:9, But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
Those who had seized Jesus led Him away to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were gathered together. But Peter was following Him at a distance as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and entered in, and sat down with the officers to see the outcome. Now the chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus, so that they might put Him to death. They did not find any, even though many false witnesses came forward. But later on two came forward, and said, “This man stated, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to rebuild it in three days.’” The high priest stood up and said to Him, “Do You not answer? What is it that these men are testifying against You?” But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest said to Him, “I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus *said to him, “You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has blasphemed! What further need do we have of witnesses? Behold, you have now heard the blasphemy; what do you think?” They answered, “He deserves death!” Then they spat in His face and beat Him with their fists; and others slapped Him, and said, “Prophesy to us, You Christ; who is the one who hit You?” Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard, and a servant-girl came to him and said, “You too were with Jesus the Galilean.” But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you are talking about.” When he had gone out to the gateway, another servant-girl saw him and *said to those who were there, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” And again he denied it with an oath, “I do not know the man.” A little later the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Surely you too are one of them; for even the way you talk gives you away.” Then he began to curse and swear, “I do not know the man!” And immediately a rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the word which Jesus had said, “Before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.