Peter’s Model of Repentance

Veteran’s Day is an excellent time to think about and thank God for our heroes. Many men and women and their families sacrificed so much for so many. Do you have some real-life heroes that you admire and want to emulate? Unlike fictional heroes, movie heroes, ours don’t have extraordinary abilities to fly, transform into self-enclosed rockets, or stretch long limbs to get through little places. They’re not men or women who can overcome a terrorist attack singlehandedly or save the world from an alien invasion. Hopefully, our everyday heroes are people who have committed themselves to the Lord consistently, honestly, and sincerely in whatever calling He has given them. Unfortunately, though, some Christians think that loud boasts of faith and positive thinking are appropriate characteristics to imitate, to become heroes themselves. Many of us, when disappointed, deny our discouragement, as if that is the way to be faithful to Christ. After all, he suffered more than we ever will, so why should we complain or give in to our failures? Isn’t it better to be stoic than giving in to our emotions? The answer lies in the fact that this may be precisely what our enemy, the devil, would like us to do because we are turning away from God to trust in our own power and solution to the problem. We know that Satan, “the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Paul reminds us that we should be watchful so as not to be “outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.” (2 Corinthians 2:11) James writes, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (4:7). Making bold statements about our faith being unshakable or using “positive thinking” is the opposite of submitting ourselves to God. There are times when we need to repent of our unholy self-esteem and self-protection, as the apostle Peter should have, and finally did, seeking Jesus’s intercession to serve him most devotedly. We can learn from Peter about the dramatic changes in our spiritual fruit when we repent of self-motivated, human faith for a deep heart and soul commitment to God.

Peter’s Struggle

“Peter’s dominant nature seems to have propelled him to the forefront of Christ’s activities and ministries time after time. When Jesus asked, ‘Who is the one who touched Me?’ It was Peter, even though he did not know the correct answer, who spoke out and said, ‘Master, the multitudes are crowding and pressing upon You’ (Luke 8:45). From this brief incident and other that are similar, it is apparent that Peter’s tongue was sometimes faster than his brain or his heart…[And there was the time] when many of [Jesus’s] disciples withdrew, and were not walking with Him anymore. Jesus turned to the twelve and asked, ‘You do not want to go away also, do you?’ Simon Peter answered very astutely, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. And we believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God’ (John 6:51-69)…It was Peter who [said], ‘Thou art the Christ.’…[But then] he turned around and rebuked the very one he had just acknowledged was God incarnate (Mark 8:27-32). How could he do such a thing? Where was his mind? Where was his heart? The answers to these questions are revealed in the words that follow: ‘Turning around and seeing His disciples, [Jesus] rebuked Peter, and said, ‘Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.’ There is no question that Peter had left his fishing nets to accompany Jesus, but the level of his repentance was far from deep…Peter was following Christ, and yet he was not following…Even when Jesus said, ‘I say to you, Peter, the cock will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know Me,’ he did not weep and plead, ‘Save me, O Lord, from myself’ or any other appropriate words of a repentant man (Luke 22:31-34)…[Later, after the cock crowed three times], he went out and wept bitterly. Now, at last, we see the beginnings of evangelical repentance in this hearty fisherman who had suffered so much for Christ and yet has such difficulty in denying himself, taking up his cross, and following Him. With renewed strength accompanying his vastly enlarged repentance, we find Peter, just days later, rising early, running to the tomb, stooping and looking in, and, seeing the linen wrappings only, going away to his home marveling at what had happened (Luke 24:12)…Peter was finally in the grip of that kind of honesty that marks all truly repentant men. He could no longer claim more than was actually true…Not only did his faith not fail, but he had come to levels of repentance he had never even guessed existed.'” (1)

Peter’s Bold Mistake

Let’s take a closer look at Peter’s problem as Jesus describes it in Luke 22:31-34. “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.’ Peter said to him, ‘Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.’ Jesus said, ‘I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.’” Jesus interceded for “Simon” who thought he could protect himself from Satan’s scheme. I shudder when I hear Christians pray against Satan in their own power rather than ask God to protect and shield them, as we do in the Lord’s prayer, “deliver us from [the] evil [one].” “Paul tells us to put on the armor of God so that we can stand against Satan [Ephesians 6:1-10]. The battle goes beyond flesh and blood. We’re wrestling against cosmic evil in an unseen realm. Even though this evil is invisible, it is very real. Christians face two main dangers in dealing with Satan. One danger is underestimating the power and reality of Satan. The other danger is to overestimate his powers and attribute to him. Satan’s two principal activities in the life of the Christian are tempting him and accusing him.” (2) Satan was tempting Peter to trust in his own faith or strength to follow Jesus, rather than repent of his pride. I imagine that the devil and his minions rejoice whenever we act on our own power or ideas without engaging with the Lord. And continuing to do so, as Peter did, denies the need to repent and submit in weakness to the Lord’s will and protection. When we find ourselves making Peter’s mistake, we ought to repent of our unholy self-esteem and self-protection, seeking Jesus’s intercession to serve him most devotedly.

Jesus’s Intercession for Peter

Jesus prayed for Peter—ahead of his denial, during his boasting of suffering with the Lord, and for the ability to follow Jesus by his flesh. Jesus “turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly.” (Luke 22:61-62) “Jesus’s gaze brought home to Peter what he had just done. I don’t think it is possible for us to conceive how deeply Peter felt the glance of Christ at that moment. Luke simply tells us that Peter went out and wept bitterly. These were tears of remorse, provoked by Jesus’ gaze into the very soul of Peter.” (3) Jesus “looked upon Peter; with his bodily eyes, with great earnestness, expressing in his looks concern and pity for him; for it was a look, not of wrath and resentment, but of love and mercy, and power went along with it; it was not only a signal to Peter, to put him in remembrance of what he had said, but it was a melting look to him, and a means of convincing and humbling him, and of bringing him to repentance.” (4) This is the same “look” that Christ gives us when we repent, a look of love and mercy, full of forgiveness. Peter boldly preached Christ on Pentecost and ministered to both Jews and Gentiles before being crucified himself. His repentance of trusting in his flesh led him to serve Christ wholeheartedly. Our repentance of our inflated self-esteem or self-protection from Satan’s schemes will lead us to serve God more fully and not be so easily tempted to deny our faith in a world hostile toward him. As soldiers in the Lord’s army, Christ is our hero, the one we should imitate. “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:7-8)

Related Scripture: Job 1:6-12; 2:1-6; Amos 9:9-10; Matthew 26:55-58; John 21:15-19; Acts 3:13-15; 2 Corinthians 2:11; 1 Peter 5:8.

Notes

  1. Roberts, Richard Owen, Repentance: The First Word of the Gospel, pp. 223-228, Crossway, 2002.
  2. Sproul, How to Please God, The Battle With the Devil, https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL30acyfm60fXCFx1nb6bVSXO4PEbSmMDd
  3. Sproul, R. C., “A Walk with God: An Exposition of Luke’s Gospel,” Luke 22:54-65, Electronic Book, 2016.
  4. Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Luke 22:61, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/luke-22.html

November 11, 2021

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