Updated: Apr 8, 2020
Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. And when some there had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.” But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said. A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” Man, I am not!” Peter replied. About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.” Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the cock crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the cock crows today, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.
Luke 22v54-62 (NIV)
Perhaps we can understand one denial. We might have a little sympathy for two denials...but three! It's not like Peter didn't have time to think about what to say: 'About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.” Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” I don't even think another five hours would have made any difference. When the pressure came on, Peter crumbled in a heap. The whole denial episode might have surprised Peter, but not Jesus. Earlier in the day Jesus had predicted: 'I tell you Peter, before the cock grows today, you will deny three times that you know me.' (verse 34). But Jesus had also foreseen something else: 'I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back...' (verse 32). Jesus knows he will fail and he knows there is a way back for Peter and us! Two things we learn from Peter.
First, I am confronted with my own denial. I like to think I would do better than Peter, but the reality is I am just like Peter. You are like Peter. Peter is not stupid, he knows following Jesus is costly but he chooses comfort. In the cold and dark reality of the courtyard Peter decides that saving his own life is more important than loving Jesus. We are no different. When faced with the decision to be associated with Jesus I stay silent, but my heart cries out,'I don't know him'. When confronted with the claims of Jesus, I dismiss it, but my heart cries out 'I don't know what you are talking about.' The hard truth is, I have a heart just like Peter.
Second, I am offered the grace of Jesus. 'Just as he was speaking, the cock crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter.' Jesus knows Peter has failed. Peter knows he has failed. But Jesus' look is not to condemn him but to forgive him. In the darkest moment of our lives, in the midst of great failure Jesus offers grace. We are confronted with our denial so that we might receive the grace of Jesus. Peter was repentant: 'he went outside and wept bitterly.' Literally he threw himself on the ground and cried. He sees his sin, but more than that he admits to his sin. These are not tears of self-pity but tears for Jesus, he needs forgiveness. Repentance is to own what you have done; it leaves you forgiven. The beautiful truth is, Jesus has a heart full of grace.
In Jesus we find the greatest friend. He will never deny you. He will never fail you. In fact he has died for you. In love he walked to the cross, and was treated as a denier for you so that Grace might flow to you. When we experience God’s grace we don’t need to take revenge on friends who deny us. Instead of cutting them off we welcome them back. Because I have been forgiven of my failure I can forgive those who fail me.
Father God when I am confronted with my sin help me to own it and not deny it. Rather than hide from you, cause me to run to you for grace and forgiveness. Thank you that there is always a way back because of your grace.