Tears of Repentance
July 13th, 1969 @ 7:30 PM
TEARS OF REPENTANCE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-13-69 7:30 p.m.
On the radio, as you can see, you are sharing the services of the Mount Antioch First Baptist Church in Dallas. God bless them for singing songs like that. I love to hear them. And if you will ever notice, they say something, always do. Now, if you are listening on the radio, turn with us to the Gospel of Luke, chapter 22; Luke chapter 22, and we are going to read together, and you read out loud with us also, verses 54 through 62.
It is a pericope that you can easily see. It has a beginning, has an ending, Luke 22, beginning at 54 and closing at 62. I am preaching through the Book of Luke in these Sunday evening services. When I get through preaching through the Book of Luke, I will preach through the Gospel of John. Every Sunday night, the message will be on the life of our Lord. And it is my heart’s purpose to do that until Jesus comes down from heaven and takes us home to Himself. Every Sunday night I will preach a sermon from the life of our Lord.
I have been doing that for about six or seven or eight years already, and I am going to do it until the Lord comes again. So when you come to church and invite somebody, at the morning hour I may be preaching about anything, but Sunday night, always, the sermon will be about Jesus. I will be bragging on Jesus Sunday night. Now, in the strange providences of life, you who are listening on the radio, we are having the Lord’s Supper tonight. And this twenty-second chapter of Luke is the chapter in which we find the institution of this holy ordinance, and this is an incident of that night when the Lord was betrayed. Luke 22, verses 54 to 62, now reading out loud together:
Then took they Him, and led Him, and brought Him into the high priest’s house. And Peter followed afar off.
And when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the hall, and were set down together, Peter sat down among them.
But a certain maid beheld him as he sat by the fire, and earnestly looked upon him, and said, This man was also with Him.
And he denied Him, saying, Woman, I know Him not.
And after a little while another saw him, and said, Thou art also of them. And Peter said, Man, I am not.
And about the space of one hour after another confidently affirmed, saying, Of a truth this fellow also was with Him: for he is a Galilean.
And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew.
And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny Me thrice.
And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.
The title of the sermon is Tears of Repentance. “And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter” [Luke 22:61]. Another Gospel says that that third denial was accompanied by oaths and curses [Matthew 26:74]. He was a fisherman, a sailor, and he could swear like a sailor. And in this moment he reverted to his old life of blasphemous words and language. He could curse. And in the moment, that moment of his cursing denial of the Lord:
The Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had said unto him, Before the cock crow twice, at midnight and at dawn, before the dawn of this night, thou shalt deny Me thrice.
And Peter went out and wept bitterly.
Now, that experience is not extraneous to us. It is not a peripheral, marginal despair and agony. It is central to all of our lives. And I don’t mean the life of age. I mean all of us, for all of us have felt that: the despair, the agonizing hurt of personal failure. Our young people feel it, our teenagers feel it, even our children feel it, and, of course, as we come into manhood and womanhood, it is a shared experience on the part of all of us. We thought we were so strong and so able, only to discover we were so weak and so prone to err.
Now this man Simon Peter was an unusual fellow. We have a tendency to tell God what to do, all of us do. When we get down and pray, most of our praying is directed to God, telling Him what to do. Now, the Scriptures say, in the sixteenth chapter of Matthew, that from that time, Jesus began to tell His disciples that He was going to be crucified, going to die in Jerusalem. And when He said that, that He was going to be killed, slain by the chief priests and scribes, then Peter took Him and began to rebuke Him [Matthew 16:21-22]. Now that is presumption of the highest order. Simon Peter took the Lord and began to rebuke Him, to correct Him. But we’re all like that. We can tell God how to do it better than God is doing it, and we have a tendency in our praying to the Lord to tell God all about these things that He is doing wrong, and how He could do it better. “And Peter took Him, and began to rebuke Him. And the Lord turned and said unto Peter, Get thee behind Me, Satan; for thou art an offense unto Me: thou savorest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men” [Matthew 16:22-23]. Now, I am saying that this is presumption of the highest order. Simon Peter, in his self-estimation—and most of us have an exalted opinion of ourselves—in his exalted self-estimation, he takes the Lord and he rebukes Him. He knows more than the Lord does, and he can tell the Lord what He ought to do, and what is better than what He is purposing to do.
Well, I turn the page again, and this is what the Lord was referring to when He spoke of that cock crowing. The Lord said to those disciples, “Before this dawn,” now this is about midnight:
Before this dawn, this coming dawn, all of you shall forsake Me, all of you, all of you. But Peter answered and said unto Him, Though all men shall be offended because of Thee, yet will not I. I will not be. I will never be offended in Thee.
That’s what he said. “Peter answered and said unto Him, Though all men shall be offended because of Thee, yet will I never be offended, never” [Matthew 26:33]. So the Lord said to him, “I say unto thee, Simon, That this night, before the cock crow, before the dawn, thou shalt deny Me three times [Matthew 26:34]. And Peter said unto Him, Though I should die with Thee, yet will I not deny Thee” [Matthew 26:35]. Well, I can understand that. We all are sort of that way. “That wretch over there, or that frail, feeble, anemic weakling yonder, or this somebody over there, now they may do these things, and they may fall into these traps, and trials, and tribulations, and temptations, and they may do these things of weakness and error; but I won’t. I won’t, no, not I, not I; all the rest of them, maybe, but not I.”
Well, that’s why when you turn to the story of that night and Peter swears to a little maid, “I never saw Him, I don’t know Him” [Luke 22:56-57], and he swears before another man, “I never heard of Him” [Luke 22:58], and he swears a third time saying, “I may be a Galilaean, that’s right, and I come from Galilee, that’s correct, but I don’t know this Man!”[Luke 22:59-60], and when he was in the act of his third denial, the Lord turned and looked upon Peter. Oh, I can just live through the agony of that gaze!
And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had said, Before the cock crow in the dawn, thou shalt thrice deny that you even know Me.
And he went out and wept bitterly.
Well, I suppose out of all of the sad nights that anyone ever lived through, the saddest night, followed by the saddest day, followed by the saddest Saturday, was experienced by Simon Peter.
Now you know why he was there. John was a kinsman of the high priest, and this was in the home of the high priest. And it was a courtyard built around an open place like the Spanish people build their houses. And the apostle John, who apparently was of fine aristocratic lineage, James and John—when they arrested the Lord and took Him to the house of the high priest and then to the Sanhedrin [John 18:12-14], John followed the Lord and went into the house, being known to the high priest, and Peter was following outside. So John went outside where Simon Peter was and brought him into the courtyard [John 18:15-16].
Now it is, as you know, in the early spring, and the climate of Jerusalem is temperate in the early spring. And at night it would be cool; not frigidly cold, but cool. And there was a fire [John 18:18]. Somebody had built a fire in the center of the courtyard without a roof above it, built a fire. And when Simon Peter came in, in one of the rooms that opened on the court, the Lord was being accused and condemned before the high priest [John 18:19-24]. And the room opened onto the courtyard. So while the Lord was being condemned and accused before the high priest and the leaders of the nation, why, Simon Peter was out there standing by the fire, warming himself [Luke 22:54-55]. And as he stood there, the little band who was around looked at him closely. And one of them must have remembered seeing him, and said, “You are one of His followers. You are. I saw you with Him.”
“Oh no, not I. You did not see me” [Matthew 26:69-70]. And then another one so spake, and another one said, “You surely are one of His disciples. You speak like Him. You talk like Him. You are a Galilean, and you have the language of Him” [Matthew 26:71-73]. And the apostle said, “You think I talk like Him? Well, just listen to this,” and he ripped out a blasphemous oath and a curse [Matthew 26:73-74]. And it was at that moment that the Lord, being in the room that opened on the courtyard, listening to him, hearing him, it was at that moment that the Lord turned and looked on Simon Peter out there in the courtyard, denying that he ever knew the Lord. And Peter went out and wept bitterly [Luke 22:61-62].
That night, I say, I suppose, and the next day, and the Saturday that followed, was the saddest night and day that any man ever lived through. For the Lord was condemned, as you know, and at nine o’clock the next morning He was raised up on the cross, and at three o’clock that afternoon He had died [Luke 23:32-46], and at the evening hour, as the sun began to set, He was laid that Friday afternoon in the tomb [Luke 23:50-55]. And all day the next day Simon Peter, somewhere, crawling into some dark, despairing, dismal dungeon like of a shadow, relived those hours when he had stood and saw the Lord condemned, denied that he ever knew Him. Oh, I can just feel the hot drops of every tear that he shed, and every despairing, agonizing moment that he felt.
Well, aren’t you glad that God is sympathetic? Not just sympathetic with Simon Peter, aren’t you glad He is sympathetic with you? For I suppose out of all of the men who are presented here in God’s Book, we have more common ground with Simon Peter. We can identify––they say in a modern word––with Simon Peter more than any other man in sacred writ. And aren’t you glad that God is like this? When Jesus was raised from the dead––now you look at this––when Jesus was raised from the dead, the first thing that He thought of––not that He had been blotted out of existence in the days that His body was in the tomb; I think He remembered, and loved, and forgave, and was merciful all the way through––but in the story, when He is raised from the dead and He comes forth in a glorified body, the first thing He does is this, look at this: “Go your way”—speaking to the women, and John says it was to Mary Magdalene—“Go your way and tell His disciples and Peter” [Mark 16:7]. What did He say? “Go and tell the disciples and John,” or “Tell the disciples and James,” or “Tell the disciples and Matthew,” but “Go your way, tell His disciples and Peter”—He singles him out—“that He goes before you into Galilee, and there shall you see Him” [Mark 16:7]. Do you remember what happened? You know these things better than I. But in the story presented here in the Gospels––and John picks it up there––when Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples and Peter that He was raised from the dead and she had seen Him, Simon Peter and John ran to the tomb [John 20:1-3].
And when John, who was the younger man, arrived there first, he paused outside of the door of the sepulcher and went not in. But when impetuous Simon Peter came to the tomb, instead of pausing at the door, he ran right on in, didn’t stop, went right on into the tomb, and then followed that other disciple whom Jesus loved. And they saw there the winding sheets, so carefully laid, and the napkin folded up in a place by itself; that is, it was not a robbery, but He had been raised from the dead! [John 20:4-9].
All right, again, in the twenty-fourth chapter of this Gospel of Luke, after the Lord has appeared to those two on the way to Emmaus [Luke 24:13-31], they come back to Jerusalem, and they tell the eleven disciples there that they have seen the Lord. “We’ve seen the Lord;” and they say, “We know that the Lord is risen indeed, for He hath appeared to Simon!” [Luke 24:33-34].
Now you think of that. When the Lord was raised from the dead [Luke 24:1-7], not only did He tell Mary Magdalene and the women to go tell the disciples and Peter that He was alive [Mark 16:7], but He appeared personally to Simon Peter somewhere [Luke 24:34]. We don’t know where, we don’t know when, but sometime on that first day of the week, on that Sunday—because the Lord appeared to the two on the way to Emmaus on Sunday [Luke 24:1, 13-15]—in the evening He appeared to them [Luke 24:29-31]. And when those two in Emmaus came back to the eleven in Jerusalem and told them they’d seen the Lord, they said, “We know He is alive, for He has already appeared to Simon Peter” [Luke 24:33-34]. So sometime on that first day of the week, when the Lord was raised from the dead, sometime that day He appeared to Simon Peter personally.
Now it would not take much imagination to re-create that confrontation between the Lord and His chief apostle. He had denied the Lord [Luke 22:55-60]. And Simon had seen Him crucified and finally buried [Luke 23:32-56], and now word has come that He has been raised from the dead, that He lives [Luke 24:1-10]. And then suddenly, somewhere, that Sunday, He appeared to Simon [Luke 24:34]. Oh, I can just see that! I can just see Simon Peter falling at the feet of Jesus.
That’s what he did the first time. In the story of the fishing boat, when the Lord said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a draught,” and he let them down, after Simon said, “We fished all night long and caught nothing, but nevertheless at Thy word I will let down the nets,” and he caught a draught of a vast number of school of fish. And when Simon Peter saw it––he’s a fisherman all his life, and yet this Man could see into the bottom of that lake. And this Man could see that school of fish, and this Man could also see the depths of his own heart––and when he saw that miracle of the draught of fish, he fell down at Jesus’ feet and said, “Lord, depart from me; I am a sinful man. I am not fit to be in Thy presence” [Luke 5:1-8]. Why, I have every right to suppose that when the Lord appeared to Simon Peter that he fell at the feet of Jesus: “O Lord, how unworthy and sinful I am.”
And I can see the Lord, because that’s what He did with John. When John was on the isle of Patmos sixty years later and saw the glorified, immortalized, exalted Lord Jesus [Revelation 1:9-16], John writes that he “fell at His feet as dead, and the Lord put forth His right hand and touched him” [Revelation 1:17]. And I think, in this visit between the Lord and Simon Peter [Luke 24:34], that He put forth His hand and lifted him up, raised him up. “Simon, Simon, Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat; But when thou art converted, when you turn again, strengthen thy brethren” [Luke 22:31-32]. Raise him up. “Simon, you are My man. You are My apostle. You are My preacher. You are My emissary. You are My ambassador and My representative. Stand up, Simon”: forgiven, forgotten, washed away [Luke 24:34]. That’s the Lord.
You know, I wonder if I could say this with any meaning. God says about our sins, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” [1 John 1:9]. And God says that He takes our sins and He blots them out [Psalm 51:9]. God says He takes our sins and He remembers them no more [Isaiah 43:25]. He said He takes our sins and He places them, casts them into the depths of the sea [Micah 7:19]. They are not; when God forgives your sins, He forgets them, and they are blotted out, and they are as though they never were. Well, you know––then I come to the Lord and I say, “Lord, that dark, black, evil transgression, O Lord, once again I ask you, Lord, to forgive me that dark and evil transgression,” and the Lord says, “What dark and evil transgression? What transgression? What sin?” “O Lord, You remember the one, and I ask You in agony and tears to forgive me. You remember, Lord, back there?” And God says, “Why, I don’t remember. What sin? What transgression?” For the Book says, “And I will remember no more, I will blot it out, washed away” [Jeremiah 31:34]. Oh, I wish I could be like that, and I wish my people could! When God forgives us our sins, they are no more, never! They don’t exist. God does not even remember them. He says so! And we ought to believe God, that He cleanses us and washes us. And we’ve got a new life, and a new book, and every page is clean and white. That’s the Lord. That’s the Lord.
Now I want to say a word, and then I’m done, about these tears of repentance. Oh! a thing like that moves me, when people are convicted and when they weep before the Lord. As you know, all last week, Sunday night through Friday night, I was in a city-wide crusade in Oklahoma City. The meeting was held in an arena at the fairgrounds where they have the State Fair of Oklahoma. And Thursday night, or Thursday night, Thursday night there was a professional photographer there, and I saw him at the first of the service because he was taking pictures of the service. And by the way, I have them. They are magnificent. And you wouldn’t believe it. I’ve got two of Lee Roy, great big ones, mounted, and they are magnificent. And Mel says, “He must have been a professional.” That’s right. I brought them to church tonight, and they’re in my office, and I want you to get them. They’re large and they’re mounted; and he has three of me, and they’re over there too, and they’re more magnificent! They are really superlative. You look at them. We’ll have Mrs. Forrester display them somewhere where the people can see them. They’re really good; they are professional.
Well, I saw him at the first of the service, and that’s when he took those pictures that I’m referring to. He took the pictures of Lee Roy and then as I began to preach. Well Thursday night we had a very large response. There were about, oh, a hundred seventy-five who responded Thursday night and many, many of them accepting the Lord as their Savior. It was a moving service. Well, against the rule that you would follow had you been directing the meeting, the photographer, in that great response, that photographer came up to my left over there to raise his camera to take a picture of that large response that night; people coming to the Lord, and he was going to take a picture of it. I was on a platform. We were on a platform very high that—you, you know, in a big arena, you’d have a platform that’d come just about to your, above your waist—and he raised his camera, standing over there to my left. He raised his camera to take a picture of that group who were coming to the Lord, and he held his camera for just a little bit, just a moment, and burst into tears. And he sat his camera down on that platform, and bowed his head on that platform, and began to sob like a little child. He never took his picture. He never took his picture.
And one of the ministers went over to him and put his arm around him, and then they went back to our after-service of prayer. And that photographer found the Lord that night. He was saved that night. Now, I’m not saying that all of us have to be saved like that. We are saved in so many different ways. Some of us may sing, or smile, or clap our hands, or be happy. And some of us when we are converted have a very nominal, and quiet, and un-objective experience. I’m not saying that you have to be saved like that, but I am just saying that once in a while you’ll see that: tears of repentance––that man laying his camera down and bowing his head on the platform, just sobbing his heart out before the Lord, tears of repentance. And I guess they are sort of alongside of the blood of Jesus. They wash the stain of sin away [1 Peter 1:18-19].
We love the Lord, don’t we? And we’re so eternally, everlastingly grateful to God that “He is a High Priest who is moved, can be touched by the feeling of our infirmities; He was tried in all points, like as we are. Therefore,” says God’s Book, “Let us come boldly to the throne of grace” [Hebrews 4:15-16], all of us, any one of us. However we have lived, or fallen or not fallen, or been sinful or not sinful, however we are, “Come boldly,” God says, “to the throne of grace, that you might find help in time of trouble, that you might find grace in the hour of need” [Hebrew 4:16].
“And we come, Lord. Just don’t be weary of our much coming, loving God, serving the Lord, praying to the Lord. O Master! If we had ten thousand eternities, all of them would we devote to Thee—and that’s what we’re going to do in heaven—and “Unto Him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood . . . to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Amen” [Revelation 1:5-6].
Now while we sing our hymn of appeal tonight, somebody you coming to the Lord; a family you coming to the Lord; a mother and her son tonight coming to the Lord; as the Savior shall press the appeal to your heart, come and stand by me: “Here I am. I make it tonight. I’m coming tonight.” Do it. Make it now. Come now. Make the decision now, and in a moment when we stand to sing, stand up coming. Do it, and Jesus bless you and meet you in the way, while we stand and while we sing.
I. The experience of defeat, despair
A. Peter’s presumptuous,
exalted self-estimation (Matthew 16:21-23)
B. He was boastful,
self-confident (Matthew 26:33-35)
II. Bitter tears of repentance
A. Jesus looked at
III. The mercy, forgiveness and undying
love of Jesus
A. His sympathy for
Peter (Mark 16:7)
B. He appeared
personally to Simon Peter (Luke 24:34, 5:1-8)
1. To John (Revelation 1:17)
IV. The power of forgiveness
A. God blots out our
transgressions (1 John 1:9, Jeremiah 31:34, Micah
B. Crusade in Oklahoma
City – photographer saved
C. We can come as we are (Hebrews 4:15-16, Revelation 1:5-6)