How is it that such a faithful man as Peter would deny Jesus three times? He starts out well enough. He follows Jesus as Jesus is taken away into custody, following albeit at a distance (22:54). He is bold enough, though, to go right into the courtyard and sit down among those who are declared enemies of Jesus (22:55), even within eyesight and earshot of the action (22:61). This is no coward. He is boldly going into the lion’s den.
Yet, three times he does deny Jesus, just as Jesus had predicted (22:61). First, he denies it to a servant girl (22:57). Then another man (22:58). And finally someone becomes convinced he must be among the followers of Jesus because so many of them came from the North of the country, from the region of Galilee, and Peter’s distinctive accent gives him away (22:60). This is, then, no sudden, ill-thought through, heat-of-the-moment denial. This is a deliberate policy. No doubt Peter felt at risk. If they had arrested his master, how would they treat him? Perhaps he is trying to play the covert operative in this instance. But whatever it was that was motivating Peter, it resulted in him denying the Lord that he loved. His love is real: it is not that he does not care. Once he realizes what he has done, he goes out and weeps bitterly (22:62).
What a difference it makes when the Spirit falls on Peter at Pentecost! (Acts 2). What a difference it makes when Jesus reinstates Peter! (John 21:15 and following). Peter had been so sure that he would not let Jesus down or deny Jesus, but we are aware that pride comes before a fall (Proverbs 16:18). And yet a righteous man falls many times, but each time he gets back up again (Proverbs 24:16).
If Peter could fail in this way, we should watch and pray that we would not fall into temptation too!
If Peter did fail in this way, we should not despair if we do fall—but ask God for a new spirit and a clean heart that we might be restored and set free to serve our Lord again!
To receive God Centered Bible devotionals directly in your inbox, sign up here.