(John 18:15-18, 25-27)
Jesus had previously spoken to Peter telling him that Peter would deny Jesus three times before the cock crowed. Peter had vehemently said that he would never do such a thing, but Jesus knew better.
In these scriptures we see the situation unfold and the words of Jesus come to pass. We also see and understand the process that Peter went through and also gain an insight into the love, mercy and compassion of the Lord for His people.
Less than twenty four hours earlier, Peter along with all the disciples had sworn that they would stand beside Jesus even if it meant death. And only a couple of hours earlier Peter stood to defend both his Lord and his friend as he drew a sword to strike out against the mob that came for Jesus. He struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear.
Such bravado and courage in the face of great odds were a hallmark of who Peter was. But he was also impetuous and would sometimes jump in without thinking.
Then we see a great turnaround in Peter. Gone was the bravado and gone was the courage as he followed the crowd at a distance when they took Jesus away. Now we see the wind taken out of his sails and a resignation that the fate of the Lord was nearly sealed and that the enemies of Jesus would have their way.
As a result, Peter was in fear. He wanted to see and know what was happening, but he was afraid. And so we see when he is questioned, first by the maid who kept the door, then by the crowd and finally be a relative of the man whose ear Peter had severed asking whether Peter was one of Jesus’ followers, he denies it. Three times the question was asked of him. Three times he had the opportunity to stand up for Jesus and three times he said, “I do not know Him.”
If you or I had a friend and three times denied that we knew them, especially when they were in a time of trouble and could use all the friends they could get, I’m pretty sure they would wipe us and never speak to us again.
But fortunately for us and for Peter, Jesus is not like us.
Jesus had pre-warned Peter and the disciples that they would all desert Him. Peter’s denial was also stated plainly despite Peter protesting he would never do such a thing. And yet he did.
So what was Jesus’ reaction? Did he then reject the disciples, and Peter especially for leaving Him alone and rejecting Him? No. He knew this would happen and He showed them all His grace, mercy, compassion and forgiveness, especially for Peter. Look at the words of Jesus to Peter from Luke 22:31-34,
31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat,
32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren.”
33 And he said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”
34 He said, “I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you three times deny that you know me.”
Jesus told Peter that Peter would deny him, and then Jesus prayed for him. He prayed that Peter’s strength would not fail after the denial, for Jesus also knew that Peter would be shattered. And we see elsewhere that after the cock had crowed and Peter remembered what the Lord had said, Peter went out and wept bitterly.
Jesus wanted Peter to know that despite his denial, Jesus understood and loved him and that He had compassion on Peter. He also expected Peter to bounce back for Peter was to lead the disciples in days, weeks and years after the Lord’s death that they may found the church we know today.
Jesus knew Peter was a strong man and Jesus was relying on the strength of Peter to carry the rest of the disciples. As He said, “…when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren.” So when Peter repented and understood the words of the Lord, he came back to the disciples to help them in this darkest of hours after the death of Jesus.
A Lesson For Us Too
In this example we see that even though Peter did the unthinkable by denying Jesus, he was not shunned. Peter was not given up on or rejected by the Lord. Instead the Lord showed him mercy and compassion.
The Lord will also do the same with us if our faith should fail us as Jesus prayed for Peter that his faith should not fail. Paul also spoke of this in 2 Timothy 2:13 saying,
13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful–for he cannot deny himself.
No the Lord cannot deny Himself and he will help us to find the faith. When we repent and turn back to Jesus He will come to us to restore, strengthen and establish us in the ways of God.
So should you ever fall and feel you have failed the Lord, as we all do from time to time, don’t fear to come back to Him. Our God is a God of mercy and compassion and He will help those who seek Him in humility and with a repentant heart to find the way back to Jesus.
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