Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said.
But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.
Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.”
He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!”
After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.”
Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!”
Immediately a rooster crowed. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.
I am struck by the flood of events that take place during the relatively few hours from the Last Supper, Gethsemane, the arrest and trial of Jesus, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection – events that happen so fast yet change the world forever.
Of course, Jesus plays the main role in this small slice of time, but there many others – Judas, Pilate, Caiaphas, Barabbas, and Mary Magdalene just to name a few; the role of Peter can easily be overlooked. At the Last Supper, Jesus tells Peter (Mt 26:34) that “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” Peter immediately responds that he would never disown Jesus and would die with him; and of course, all the other disciples said the same. Later in the Garden at the precise time that Judas betrays Jesus and the guards come to arrest Him, it was impetuous Peter who drew his sword and cut off the ear of one of the guards (John 18:10) before Jesus surrendered peacefully. As the guards led Jesus away it is notable that all the disciples deserted Jesus and fled. But Peter, following at a distance, put himself at risk while joining the crowd for the trial before Caiaphas where Jesus was falsely accused many times; Peter sat silently. And when he was noticed as someone who was a follower of Jesus, he denied even knowing Him; in fact, he denied Him three times and swore an oath just as the rooster crowed – thus fulfilling Jesus’ prediction.
Peter went outside and wept bitterly (Mt 26:75) which seems to be a bit of an understatement to me. Can you imagine the depth of his shame and the mountain of guilt he must have felt? At the precise moment of truth, he failed the Lord miserably.
Perhaps there is a teaching moment here for us. Maybe not as significant as Peter, nonetheless we all encounter “moments of truth” in our lives. How will we respond? Will we step forward? Is our faith strong enough to support us?
A good friend in our community of faith here at LPC reminded me that “Jesus doesn’t call us to be successful, but rather to be faithful.” Even being faithful can often be challenging.
Most gracious God, you know me better than I know myself; you know my innermost being. Surround me with the healing power of your Holy Spirit and teach me to trust in your forgiveness and accept your grace. Give me strength. Amen.