A Downcast Disciple and a Kind Savior

Nathan George, Speaker

Luke 24:34 | April 14 - Sunday Evening,

Sunday Evening,
April 14
A Downcast Disciple and a Kind Savior | Luke 24:34
Nathan George, Speaker
View Series: Upper Room Download Audio Printable Transcript

Luke, chapter 24, verse 34. That’s our text for tonight. It’s what I was assigned. A like verse is found in 1 Corinthians 5:15. Luke 24:34 reads as thus: “The Lord has risen indeed and has appeared to Simon.” And in 1 Corinthians 15, we read “and that He appeared to Cephas then to the 12.”

So not a long reading. Short passage. It’s not going to be your normal exegetical sermon, therefore.

I considered “A Downcast Disciple and a Sweet Savior, Kind King.” My wife said it could be “loving Lord.” I thought of several things and then finally I didn’t get the alliteration in the title, but a downcast disciple and a kind King, a loving Lord.

Our themes are the kindness and mercy of Christ and then the persistence and inconsistence of Christ to pursue a weak child. These two brief passages obviously say that Christ appeared, but we’re really considering appeared, or that He rose, but we are considering that He appeared to Simon, that He appeared to Cephas and then to the 12. So we’re looking more at the order of events than the first part of that phrase.

I want to consider the implications of these passages devotionally, if you will follow along with that. So less technical exegesis and more considering what we can learn just about Jesus as we meditate upon these events. Hopefully, we’ll learn something about Peter as well in the process.

First of all, Jesus appeared to multiple women in Luke 24:10. We read that just a few moments ago. Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary, the mother of James, Salome, we find that in the account in Mark. They’re all mentioned by name and then we also learn in Luke that there were other women with them, so a bit of a crowd.

Before we jump into Peter, just let that sink in just for a moment. The central event of all history is first revealed to a smallish crowd of women. Now this is not the point of this sermon, but anyone who thinks Christianity is sexist simply hasn’t understood something about Jesus. Instead, and this is a point of this sermon, Jesus Christ, the Lord of the universe, considers the lowly, the last, the least. The Messiah first revealed the miracle that would change the world forever to those who had so often served in the shadows. The last shall be first, the women who had anointed His feet, served Him food, given Him drinks. There’s no record of performing exorcisms, preaching, doing other types of dramatic, up front ministry. Not first to kings, not first to religious leaders, not first even to His most important disciples. But first to the least of these.

And then Peter. Then to the rest of His discipleship, then to the 500. Amazingly, the second on His list to comfort was a denier. After appearing first to the least of these, He appeared to the defeated, the broken, the downcast, the failure, the liar, the coward, the one who caved under pressure. We see that Christ intended to be known as our shepherd. That’s why He wanted us to read Psalm 23 – kind, merciful, persistent, and insistent.

There’s sort of our outline. Just two points, and I admit right now that they’re not necessarily cleanly defined in my outline. But the kindness and mercy of Christ. I hope you see that tonight. And then number two, the persistence and the insistence of Christ. We’ll look at those things.

So before we go any further, would you join me in prayer once again and we’ll consider this together.

Father, I do pray that You would open Your Word, a short little passage here, but as we consider the events surrounding these passages, would You teach us once again of Your kindness to Your children? In Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

My hope is that we think about this passage, we’ll just get to know Jesus a little better, or at least be reminded of things that we know to be true about Him.

First three caveats.

Caveat number 1. I will be emphasizing the Lord’s kindness and merciful, that He’s merciful and the like. There are times that we should focus on the wrath of God, even the anger, the righteous anger of Jesus Christ. But this time we’re going to be looking at His compassion and His consideration of those who are weak, who are downcast, maybe even in depression, hopefully not at the expense of other truths.

Caveat number 2. I mentioned this already, but this is less of an exegetical sermon and I hope it comes off more as a devotional. Yes, I’ll do a little preaching here and there, but mostly I just want you to love your Lord.

Caveat number 3. As you may know, the four Gospels present many of the same events but they do so with various levels of detail or perspective. Through the years, many authors have done really, really good work on what’s called the synopsis of the Gospels, or these are called the Synoptic Gospels.

For example, the story of the road to Emmaus is only in Luke except for a brief reference in Mark. This little detail we’re looking at tonight is only in Luke and then it’s found again referenced in Corinthians, 1 Corinthians. But if you read the narrative, the Gospel of Mark or Matthew, the detail is skipped altogether. It seems as if Jesus appeared to Peter when He first appeared to all His disciples in the locked room. It can be a little confusing.

So whole books have been written on the harmonization of the Gospels. How do we fit all this together? In fact, in Calvin’s commentary, a series of commentaries, it’s called the harmonization, and good authors note that some Gospels include many more details than others, or emphasize different points. Sometimes they’re very similar, sometimes they’re a little different, the order is different, and sometimes there’s apparent conflicts. But as with most apparent conflicts, most of these details have to do with perspective or intent. Just because a detail is skipped in one account, doesn’t mean that the order of events is wrong in another account. The author simply wasn’t trying to include those things.

So with those as the caveats, let’s transition and we’ll look at this short statement, “and He appeared to Peter.”

It’s a wonderful little detail. I just love that it’s here. One which I believe not only deserves our attention, but reminds that Jesus really does relate to us as humans. Individuals who have fears and needs and joys and hopes and weaknesses and worries. People need comfort from a personal Savior, who is considerate and kind, merciful, and then finally one who will not fail to restore His children. He will not fail to win and restore His children.

In this short phrase, I believe we see the kindness of Christ. He is considerate of our frailty. Why do I say that? I think He understands hunger and pain, loss and sadness, and of course we know He understands betrayal.

Now we don’t have a record of this conversation, this conversation between Jesus and Peter, apparently it is meant to be private. It’s sacred. It’s just between the two of them. As a side note, there is a lesson right there – not every time someone needs to confess a sin does it need to be proclaimed from the mountaintop. Sometimes it’s best to be between the parties that it affects. Side note.

In any case, for our benefit, I am not so sure it’s for Peter’s benefit, but for our benefit we do know of Peter’s sin, and I think with just a little sanctified imagination we can guess at least a little of what Peter was going through.

So a question. Have you ever sinned against someone and then immediately regretted it? Have you ever felt that before? Or perhaps it dawns on you over time, but either way, do you know what it’s like to hurt someone deeply and then realize that it cannot be undone? What’s done is done.

Jesus told Peter he would deny Him and of course, Peter boasted over my dead body. Right? That’ll never happen. And then we read in Luke, “Certainly this man was also with them for he, too, is a Galilean, but Peter said, man, I don’t know what you’re talking about and immediately while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed and the Lord turned and looked at Peter, and Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, before the rooster crows today, you will deny Me three times, and he went out and wept bitterly.”

What must have Peter felt? What hit him in that moment? I just can’t imagine the sinking pit in his stomach as he remembered those words, the words of a friend as He turns and looks. He just had to get out of there. He runs out and weeps bitterly. He broke down. He had just become a denier and it shook him to his core.

Jesus would soon be beaten, take the lashes, be forced to carry a cross, be led where He did not want to go, that phrase comes back again as we read earlier in our Scripture readings, and have His hands and feet run through. Could not Peter endure some embarrassment or be guilty by association just for a few moments? Most assuredly Peter was now beating himself up. It’s not a stretch to think that he would do this, that he would descend into some depression, hating himself with words like, “You idiot, you’re a denier, you’re no better than Judas, you’re worthless, untrustworthy, boastful. You betrayed your Lord and your friend and you’re no good to anyone now. I guess it’s back to fishing. No more fishing of men for me.” Worse, would he have contemplated joining Judas?

For the next two days I imagine that I would not be able to get a recurring phrase out of my head, something like, “My last interaction with Jesus was to be ashamed of Him, to deny Him, right after I boasted and said it would never happen. I am the definition of failure.”

Well, we have several hints that the Lord God of heaven and earth knew that His child was suffering and in anguish. In Mark 16, verses 6 and 7, the angels give the amazing news that Jesus Christ has risen and they tell Mary Magdalene to go tell the disciples and they add this little phrase: “And Peter.” The angels to the Lord’s bidding, the Lord God’s bidding, and they added “and Peter.” The Lord God planned to comfort this child. He knows what we can bear. It appears that Peter had had enough. It’s as if the angels were saying, “Everyone will know the amazing news soon enough but it is not too soon

for Peter. He needs hope. Go tell him.” To my ears, this is the kindness of God on display.

So Peter was told that Jesus was risen and perhaps in that moment hope was rekindled just for a bit, or maybe he was sort of thrown into turmoil, didn’t know what to think. Would Jesus be angry with him? Would Jesus replace this unworthy servant? Nevertheless, he hopes and he runs to the tomb. We don’t know exactly when it happened, but at some point during all that running back and forth, and looking at the empty tomb that day, Jesus appears to Peter.

When the person you have sinned against comes to meet you, what do you feel? You probably feel a little trepidation and maybe a little bit of hope. Will an olive branch be extended? My guess is that Peter’s emotions were all sort of mixed up. People are complicated, after all. I would like to think, I don’t know, this may be going beyond what we could say, but I would like to think that Jesus and Peter sat down and talked for a long time.

We read in Luke 24, we’ve read this already last week, but the men on the road to Emmaus rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem and they found the 11 and those who were with them gathered together, saying the Lord has risen indeed and has appeared to Simon.

Maybe some of the disciples were not quite ready to accept the word of this crowd of women. After all, it was a pretty big story and there was, I suspect, plenty of hoping going on and we know that there was doubting going on. But if Peter had told the others about his rooster episode, now Peter was saying He appeared to me as well. Well, it might just be true.

Then Jesus shows up. He appears to them all.

Again, I think even in this order we see the kindness and care of Christ. That is, Jesus met Peter before He met with all the disciples publicly. Presumably to assure Peter of His love to forgive him. If Jesus had not done this, would Peter have instinctively shrunk back into the shadows, unsure of what the Lord would think of him? We can’t know for sure, but now because he has met with the Lord he is able to enter in to the joy of his risen Savior.

When that person who you have sinned against seeks you out and you confess, and then they forgive and enfold you back into fellowship, there’s peace. And in the process, you learn a whole new level of humility and gratefulness. I would just say never withhold forgiveness from those who need it. Crushed and distraught souls desperately need to be made whole again.

Of course, always seek forgiveness if you need it and always be ready to grant it. That doesn’t mean you have to be a doormat but it does mean you need to be ready with 70 times 7 forgivenesses.

Yes, wisdom is needed in hard situations and yes, the Lord disciplines His beloved, but He is not hard. He is not mean and manipulative, withholding forgiveness. He is kind and considerate and quick to forgive and He seeks out the restoration of His children.

So Peter runs to find Jesus, Jesus appears to Peter, and this brings us to the persistence and the insistence of Christ, our Lord. This phrase that we’re meditating on, that Jesus appeared to Peter, seems to foreshadow the reinstatement, the restoration, of Peter. You can read that wonderful story of the big catch of fish and breakfast on the

shore and Christ’s reinstatement of Peter in John chapter 21. There also in John 21 we find out that this is the third time the Jesus appears. He assures the women, He assures Peter, all the disciples, and now we see again that He’s not going to let Peter sink back into the shadows.

When someone forgives you, it’s often not a one and done type of thing. Is it? When someone forgives you, yes, you want to believe, yes, I’m forgiven. But often it takes some followup conversations, some reassuring, some conversation and warm love, one to another.

I suspect Peter in this sort of roller coaster ride went from distraught to comforted to elated to worried to assuming that yes, Jesus said He forgave me but He probably doesn’t want me to be a leader anymore. That’s a step too far. Perhaps He had started thinking even if He has forgiven me, at least I’m damaged goods at this point. The emotional roller coaster was probably in fine condition that day.

But Jesus appears again and begins to pull Peter back into the fishing for men business.

John 21. Let me read from John 21, starting at verse 15.

“When they had finished breakfast,” we read this earlier, just allow me to repeat it, “Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.””

Jesus is just not going to let this go. He’s very persistent. Of course, the three times mimics the three times of denial.

I remember that when I was young, seventh, eighth grade, I was playing basketball and I was pretty good, if I do say so myself, at least for an eighth grader. I shot 20-30 points in a game, I felt pretty good about myself, and we often played St. Andrew’s, the Catholic school down the street in my hometown, and we always were able to beat them no problem. We were just, we were the powerhouse of the small little Christian schools who were no good. We could win. They’re the type of team you would invite to a homecoming game so that you make sure that you win. But this year they had a secret weapon. His name was Mike Jones, but to me and our team, he might as well have been Michael Jordan. He ran circles around us, dribbled circles around us, totally out shot us, and basically won the game single-handedly. All we could do was watch and all his team had to do was get him the ball and then they would watch him win.

Then at the end of the game when they were far out ahead of us and we were bringing the ball back in bounds, they put a full court press on us. Just to prove that we could do nothing. I remember feeling like such an eighth grade failure.

Jesus said to him a third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him a third time, “Do you love Me?”

The full court press was just bearing down.

And Peter said to Him, “Lord, You know everything.” And in that statement, I think we should hear something like this – You know everything about me, my boasting, my failure, my denial, my lack of fortitude, my weakness, yet You know that though I failed you miserably, You know that deep down I love You. Even though my actions did not bear that out, You know how weak I was, but You also know that I love You.

Amazingly, Jesus says, “Feed my sheep.” It’s as if Jesus reaches across the baseline and hands him the ball and says, “Here ya go. Get back in the game. It’s not for you to win, I’ve done that, but it is for you to play. I’ve done the winning, but let’s be on the same team.”

In that moment, Jesus just lifts him from the pit. I waited patiently for the Lord, He inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog and set my feet on a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.

Jesus rekindles the flame and restarts that fervor for which Peter is so well-known. In just a few short but very prying and intense and persistent words, Jesus was able to instruct, gently humble, and restore that big personality of Peter’s. Jesus will not fail. He will not lose His child. He finishes a work that He begins. Though His child does not deserve it, He extends mercy and we see how kind, how merciful, how persistent Jesus is. He restores children.

Then finally after this third question, we see what I’m calling the insistence of Jesus. He will turn Peter into a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable. You see, Jesus is not content to just help Peter feel better. Yes, He probably knows of the emotional roller coaster, but it’s not just to help him feel better. Instead, He pressed hard and insists that Peter understands that he must be prepared for almost the exact same situation that he had failed in. At some point, Peter would face at least some of what Jesus faced. Peter would be tested again and Jesus is going to make sure that this time His child is ready and willing to follow Him. This time over His dead body.

Jesus is kind. He is merciful. He is also persistent. He is insistent to prepare His children. Jesus simply doesn’t let up. Someday another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go. Jesus pulls Peter back into the game and on into the winning team with a really heavy dose of reality and assurance. He says follow me.

One more question and then we close. Why was the outcome, so taking a turn here, why was the outcome between Peter and Judas so different?

Certainly warnings from Jesus would have been sounding like a siren in Peter’s ears. He’s heard from Jesus’ lips, “But whoever denies Me before men, I also will deny before My Father who is in heaven.” Later on we learn from Paul, again, if we endure, we will also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He will also deny us.

Now it is true the word betrayal and denial are different words in Greek, they have different meanings and that is helpful, perhaps, but Peter had good reason to question whether or not he would ever end up in God’s good graces again based on Christ’s own words about denial. Certainly that would have been ringing in his ears. But the outcome between these two men is drastically different.

I think what we see here is both a theological truth and something that is borne out experientially. On the theological side, we know that the Spirit had gripped Peter’s heart and that the heart of Judas was closed. We see this played out experientially.

Judas regretted his betrayal, and as you’ve heard many times from this pulpit, regret, it doesn’t take the Spirit to regret. Peter weeps in shame. It’s a little different.

Judas went back to his co-conspirators in worry and anger. Peter ran to the tomb.

Judas gives in to his despair. Peter hopes against hope.

Judas wanted a kingdom of earth. Peter wanted his Lord.

Judas did not want correction. Peter accepted the prying correction of his Lord.

I have a friend who is now walking with Christ. It’s a wonderful grace in his life. But when we first started meeting together, he was questioning his salvation, questioning the Lord, he was reading Camus, he was reading all sorts of strange philosophical stuff. So we were talking, this was a number of years ago, but he was questioning everything. He was rebelling, he was sinning. It did not look good. Raised in a Christian home and off the deep end.

At one point in our conversations he said to me, “I don’t want to come to church because I’m not obeying the Scriptures and that would just make me a hypocrite.” At that point I just about jumped out of my seat and I got all in his business. I said, “No. If you have sinned, don’t run back to your co-conspirators. Don’t give into despair. It’s not time to get all self-righteous about being a hypocrite. No, run to the tomb. Look to Jesus. Worship Him in all your tears and in your shame.”

Have you sinned against a friend? A spouse? Your Lord? Well, first of all know that you have a loving Lord, a kind King, a sweet Savior who is intent on restoring you and who will appear to you in His Word.

Second. Do not withhold forgiveness, offer it quickly when someone comes.

As Pastor Kevin has said multiple times, someone needs to break the ice, someone needs to move toward the other. Will it be you? Will you run to your spouse, your friend? I should probably add that of course there are still consequences related to sin, but how you deal with that and when is simply a matter of wisdom.

Then finally if you have sinned against Christ, allow me to ask, does your heart smite you? Or have you allowed your heart to become callused to your sin?

If your heart does not smite you, if you don’t react like Peter to your own sin, then pray for a more sensitive heart and pray for a hatred and a disgust of sin. If you are grieved over your sin, if that’s the case, then run to the empty tomb and see that Christ not only bore your sin, but lives in victory over all sin. He will be merciful and kind. He will persistently and insistently pursue you, teach you, humble you, and pull you back into the game.

I hope and pray that most of you are not currently going through what Peter experienced in that time. If not, great, I hope at least you have been reminded that Jesus is kind. At the same time, it’s good to remember that we all needed Jesus to restore, to redeem, and to pull us onto the winning team.

The angel said, “Go and tell Peter.” Jesus pursues him, taught him, humbled him, pulled him back. Jesus is our kind King, our sweet Savior. Jesus appeared to Peter.

Let’s pray. Father, I thank You for a sweet little phrase such as this and I pray that You would use it at times when necessary to comfort us, to encourage us, to restore us. In Christ’s name I pray. Amen.