At the Last Supper one of the disciples is convinced he could never, ever deny Jesus and yet… without much time passing he does that very thing.
Here is the thing though, Jesus tells the disciples in Matthew 26:31 that all of them will fall away that very night. It’s not just Peter. But Peter then declares that even if all the others do, he will not.
Jesus then tells him, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three time.’ But Peter declares, ‘Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.’ Then all the other disciples said the same.” (Matt 26:34-35)
Oh Peter. We often like to say and yet, can we not find ourselves in this man? Often wanting to do the right thing, but even more frequently trying it our way instead of His.
He is one of the three disciples Jesus takes with Him to stay closer by while He prays; for them to watch and pray. He, James, and John all fall asleep. Oops. When Jesus goes to pray and then comes back, He awakens them. This happens three times but on the third, Jesus announces, “Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” (Matthew 26:46)
While Jesus says this, Judas arrives and gives the signal to the crowd he had brought (that were armed with clubs and swords) who Jesus is by kissing Him on the cheek. Now, the Gospel of Matthew does not name the disciple who takes a sword and cuts off the ear of one of the servants of the high priest, but John does in John 18:10.
Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup my Father has given me?” (John 18:11). One of my favorite aspects of Jesus’ reaction is that He heals the man! (Luke 22:51)
So, they take Jesus meanwhile Peter and another disciple follow along. The other disciple (who is not named) was known by the high priest and while he was working to get them inside, a servant girl comes up to Peter and asks him if he is also a disciple. He replies, “I am not.” (John 18:17). The first denial.
He leaves to go warm himself by a fire where the servants and officials stood to keep warm, likely the same men who helped take Jesus away. Meanwhile Jesus was inside being questioned. While warming himself, those there also questioned him. He again denied saying, “I am not.” (John 18:25) The second denial.
And then comes the third, through a man who was a relative to the one whose ear Peter had cut off. “Didn’t I see you with Him in the garden? Again, Peter denied it, and at that moment the rooster began to crow.” (John 18:26-27)
Right as Peter denies Jesus a third time the rooster crows but we also see in Luke 22, verse 61 that “The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him.” And then we see Peter leave, weeping.
What do you think the look on Jesus’ face said? I truly believe it was full of grace and truth. There was nothing “I told you so” about it, instead we see Jesus standing in grace. He was on the road to the cross now, and still, He looks at Peter.
His concern has always been for us. His reason for standing there and speaking truth, has always been for us. For we, like Peter, are quick to deny the truth but Jesus never will. In this moment, let us be reminded that Jesus knew exactly what He was doing. He was taking all our sins, Peters too – and in all truth and faithfulness He gives each of us a hope and a future.
In the coming days we will see how Peter’s story plays out. But tomorrow we are turning our attention to the cross.