Thoughts On… Denying Christ

Mat 10:32, 33

32 `Every one, therefore, who shall confess in me before men, I also will confess in him before my Father who is in the heavens; 33 and whoever shall deny me before men, I also will deny him before my Father who is in the heavens.

This statement from Christ Jesus has some remarkably serious consequences. Taking the verse by itself it reads as if any person while under duress could deny Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior and consequently be lost because Jesus would speak against him before the Father.

This subject comes to light today because of the witness testimonies surrounding a mass shooting in Roseburg, Oregon. Witnesses report a young man entered a community college classroom and lined the students there against a wall. He reportedly asked each if they were Christians. If the student’s answer was in the affirmative, then the murderer shot that student in the head. If the student’s answer was that he was not a Christian, then that student was wounded by a gunshot.

Imagine the courage of the first student who confessed he was indeed a Christian. Now imagine the second, third through ninth student who confessed their belief in Christ Jesus. Nine were killed that day. The only thing the nine had in common is that they are Christian.

What about the students who were wounded? Were any of them Christian, but too fearful of the assailant’s intent to murder those who would confess Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior. We don’t know and more importantly I don’t think we need to know.

Let’s make that assumption that there was at least one of the wounded who confessed a faith in Him, but on this fateful day chose to deny Christ Jesus in order that his life might be spared.

Do we take the scripture above literally and know concretely that Jesus will deny that student before the Lord Who is in the heavens? Did that denying student’s eternal salvation get scrubbed away because he was humanly afraid? Will that hypothetical student now be punished by our Eternal Father because that student denied Christ that day?

In Matthew 10:1-15 we read that Jesus prepares His Disciples to go out. He is sending His Disciples on an evangelical mission to proclaim the Gospel as He taught them. He gives them instructions to preach the Gospel. He gives them the power to heal and the power to preach. Jesus tells them to take nothing with them that will sustain them; not even spare sandals. Jesus tells them to seek out people who are worthy and who are loving. The Disciples are instructed to stay with those good people.

Jesus then says something remarkable about the houses they come to. “Bless the family in that house with peace if that household receives you and is hospitable. If it is not then let your peace be restored to you.” Jesus was not denying the household peace and blessing, but He was telling His Disciples that staying there would be contentious. Restoration of God’s people to the Father is the overarching precept of Christ’s Gospel. Discontent and contentiousness are not.

Jesus then says to His Disciples that the unwilling household has another problem that they will have to face. God’s judgment will be put on those who reject the Word. He defines the pain of the Father’s judgment to be greater than the suffering experienced by the inhabitants of Sodom when it was destroyed by God.

In verses 16 through 29 Jesus warns His Disciples that there will be many in the towns to which they are going who will strive to harm them. He tells them to be wise and discerning. Jesus tells them that the people will complain about them and turn them over to the authorities. The Disciples should expect to be scourged at the order of the Sanhedrin. Because of this the Disciples will be brought before governors and rulers. They are to use this opportunity to advance the Gospel.

Jesus cautions the Disciples that they will be hated for the Name of Jesus. Brothers will testify against brothers. Families will be broken up because of the message they are bringing to the people. He tells them not to worry about what to say. The Holy Spirit will give the words.

He then tells them that when the persecution starts in earnest leave that city. The Gospel will not make it to every town because of the need to flee, but Christ Jesus will eventually get the Word to them all.

Jesus encourages them to go out for they are His. They are to be like their teacher. They are to be like their Lord. Jesus cautions them that if a household is the servant of the devil then that household will be like the devil. Do not fear these kinds of people. Teach the Truth. Jesus says the Light will overwhelm and destroy the darkness. Teach the Light. Shout the Truth from the rooftops.

Be encouraged to teach the Truth. Do not fear the man who can kill you. Do fear the Power than can kill your body and your soul. We see from these scriptures that God has great care for even the birds of the air. How much more does He care for us. He knows us so intimately that He literally knows the number of hairs on our heads. He knows our innermost thoughts. He knows every deed done and every deed we will do.

Now to the question at hand; Will Jesus deny the hypothetical Christian student who denied Him on that day of massacre? The simple answer is He will.  The better answer is that He will not.

It is my belief the student’s denial of Christ on that day will be the subject of Christ’s denial of Him to the Father on that day…for that incident alone.  That hypothetical student will not be denied his place in Christ’s Kingdom.

Keep this in mind as you answer these questions. Have you ever slandered a brother or sister in Christ? Have you deliberately sought to cause any person harm by your thoughts or words? Have you looked at a woman (not your wife) and wanted to have sexual relations with her? Have you wished your husband was like that other woman’s husband? Have you condemned a person because of their sexual proclivity? Have you called another person a heretic or blasphemer because that person holds an opinion of God contrary to your own? Have you wished someone dead? Do you call those who do not believe in Christ “fools?”

God knows your heart. We can deny Him in any of a myriad of ways. When we do it will be only just that He denies us to the Father who is in heaven.

Let’s be honest with ourselves at least. I’ll be honest with you. In my lifetime I have denied Him. I have denied Him in ways and in times that cause me great sorrow: Godly sorrow. Even after knowing Him and wanting to be like Him I have still done things that for all intents and purposes deny Him.

Let’s also say we have confessed our faith in Christ. Being honest with you I have reached to heaven as a reprobate and begged for forgiveness. I have been defeated to the point of wanting death. I’ve cried alligator tears confessing to Him my sins not once, but on multiple occasions. Not only for a sin committed once, but for a sin I’ve committed multiple times. I’ve gone to Him with a repenting contrite heart. I’ve been so serious in my intent to live for Him and Him only. Still being honest I’ve broken my promises. My contrite heart healed or scarred over the pain. I have gone to the Lord hating myself and He always restores me. I’ve denied Him and He will deny me before the Father, but the sin of my denial has been forgiven.

Let’s examine the story of two or three Biblical men. Perhaps in them we can find an answer to the question will Jesus deny the person who denies Him before our Father Who is in heaven?

Paul is an Apostle chosen out of season. He says of himself that he was a wretched man. He confesses that he hated Christians. He confesses he hated those who would follow the radical Rabbi named Jesus. It is safe to say Paul denied Jesus to the point he murdered, imprisoned and persecuted those who believed Him.  How do we know these things about Paul.  He confesses them in his testimony to us.

Paul’s denial was forgiven in repentance. Jesus met Paul on the road to Damascus. Jesus taught Paul and Paul’s heart changed.

Peter is an Apostle chosen by Christ Jesus to be the foundation of the Church. On the day Jesus was betrayed Peter denied Him three times! Jesus told of it before Peter’s denial. Jesus knew Peter would deny Him.

Luke 22:31-34
31 Simon, Simon, behold, Satan asked to have you, that he might sift you as wheat: 32 but I made supplication for thee, that thy faith fail not; and do thou, when once thou hast turned again, establish thy brethren. 33 And he said unto him, Lord, with thee I am ready to go both to prison and to death. 34 And he said, I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, until thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me.

We read later that Peter was there when Jesus was confronted by the temple guard in Gethsemane. Peter slashed out at one of them and cut off an ear. Jesus commanded Peter to put away his weapon. He healed the guard’s ear. Judas approached and kissed Jesus identifying Him as the One the guards were seeking to arrest.

Peter and the other Disciples ran leaving Christ alone in the hands of those who wished Him ill. Did Peter and the others deny Him there in Gethsemane?

Luke 22:54-62
54 And they seized him, and led him away, and brought him into the high priest’s house. But Peter followed afar off. 55 And when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the court, and had sat down together, Peter sat in the midst of them. 56 And a certain maid seeing him as he sat in the light of the fire, and looking stedfastly upon him, said, This man also was with him. 57 But he denied, saying, Woman, I know him not. 58 And after a little while another saw him, and said, Thou also art one of them. But Peter said, Man, I am not. 59 And after the space of about one hour another confidently affirmed, saying, Of a truth this man also was with him; for he is a Galilaean. 60 But Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew.

61 And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how that he said unto him, Before the cock crow this day thou shalt deny me thrice. 62 And he went out, and wept bitterly.

We can be sure Peter denied Christ Jesus three times. We can also be sure Peter was stricken in his heart and in his spirit when Jesus “turned and looked upon” him.

There are many scriptures that proverbially “hit me in the gut,” but this one is particularly moving. My breath is taken away. The scene in my mind’s eye is immeasurably sad. Jesus looks upon Peter and Peter realizes just how worthless he is and just how magnificent His Lord is. Too many times I’ve been in the same circumstance as Peter. I denied Him and immediately realize He is looking upon me. My heart aches in my worthlessness. My heart rejoices in that He lifts me up in His glory!

Finally think of Judas Iscariot. Here is a man called to be a Disciple by Christ Jesus. Judas learns the same lessons from Him as the others have learned. Peter, James and John competed to be the greatest among the Disciples. James’s and John’s mother campaigned that her sons would sit on Christ’s left and right. Peter was quick to act and to react. We’ve seen some of that earlier.

For roughly three years Judas walks as a Disciple with Christ. Then on one fateful day Satan enters into him.

Luke 22:1-6
1 Now the feast of unleavened bread drew nigh, which is called the Passover. 2 And the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might put him to death; for they feared the people.

3 And Satan entered into Judas who was called Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve.

4 And he went away, and communed with the chief priests and captains, how he might deliver him unto them. 5 And they were glad, and covenanted to give him money. 6 And he consented, and sought opportunity to deliver him unto them in the absence of the multitude.

We have no reason to believe Judas was impacted by Satan at any other time. It is at the time of this Passover that Satan enters into Judas. I ask this; How is it Satan can enter any man unless God would allow it or deem it? Consider how God allowed Satan to impact Job. Is it too much to say when Satan or his minion horde of demons attack any of us that it is God Who allows it? Even to help discipline His children?

Judas was paid to betray Christ Jesus and that is what he did in Gethsemane on that Passover night, but before that betrayal Christ Jesus shares a meal with His Disciples which includes Judas.

Matthew 26:24-28
24 The Son of Man will go as it is written about him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would be better for him if he had never been born.” 25 Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” Jesus replied, “You have said it yourself.”

26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after giving thanks he broke it, gave it to his disciples, and said, “Take, eat, this is my body.” 27 And after taking the cup and giving thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood, the blood of the covenant, that is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

It is clear Christ Jesus points out Judas as the man who will betray Him. There is to be great “woe” on the heart of Judas for his betrayal. Shall we put words in the mouth of our Lord and say that the great “woe” is eternal damnation? I have suffered great “woe” for my sins. As mentioned earlier I have denied Christ by my sins.

Note, too, that Jesus celebrates the Last Supper with His Disciples. Do we have reason to believe Judas Iscariot was not present or that he did not take the bread and wine from Christ’s hand? Is it possible in our zeal to avenge Christ’s betrayal in our own hearts that we have condemned Judas?

Christ Jesus leaves the place where He shared the Passover meal with His Disciples. He goes to the Garden in Gethsemane to pray. It is here where the temple guard find Him and it is here where Judas betrays Him with a kiss.

Matthew 26:48-50
48 (Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I kiss is the man. Arrest him!”)

49 Immediately he went up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi,” and kissed him. 50 Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you are here to do.” Then they came and took hold of Jesus and arrested him.

“Friend, do what you are here to do!” “FRIEND!” Yes, “Friend.” There is no doubt Christ Jesus knew Judas would betray Him with a kiss. And He still calls Judas, “Friend.”

What I see here is God’s overwhelming mercy being poured over Judas. Will you see it too? We know of scriptures that teach us that God knew us before He created the world. We have scriptures teaching us that God knows our hearts thoroughly and absolutely. We know that God destines all things for His glory. Even this betrayal was determined by God for His glory. His mercy is written all over this scene.

Jesus is betrayed so that He will be falsely accused, prosecuted and condemned. His is betrayed so that He will be sentenced to the Cross. He is betrayed so that He will be savagely beaten, mocked and murdered. He is betrayed so that He will be placed in a grave. He is betrayed so that He will be resurrected from that grave. He is betrayed so that His blood will be shed for the sins of the world. He is betrayed so that His mercy will be upon all.

Mat 27:3 – 5
3 Now when Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus had been condemned, he regretted what he had done and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders, 4 saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood!” But they said, “What is that to us? You take care of it yourself!” 5 So Judas threw the silver coins into the temple and left. Then he went out and hanged himself.

Can we say Judas exercised his free will to betray Jesus? Will we say he was chosen by God for this task, that his whole life boils down to one kiss of betrayal?

Judas repented of his sin. He repented to others and he repented before the Lord. Nothing escapes His attention. “Woe” of such magnitude fell upon Judas that he could not bear to live under the shadow of what he had done. Did he exercise his free will to hang himself? Did God choose him to hang himself?

No matter. God’s mercy is infinite even on those who betray Him.

Paul called himself “chief” among sinners, yet God saved him. He denied Christ. Peter denied Christ three times that night Christ was arrested. Judas denied Christ and betrayed Him with a kiss. Can any of us say we are better or worse than these three?

If Paul is chief among sinners I am not far behind. Peter denied knowing Jesus only three times. I have denied Him by my sinful behavior far more than that. Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss. How many times have I ignored God’s Word and paid mere lip-service to Him? Too many times to count.

Agree with my assessment or disagree. One thing we can all be certain of is His mercy. His mercy is in His shed blood. His life was given for the sins of the whole world. May we all remember Him Who gave His life for us all.