This must have been one of the hardest times for both Jesus and Peter in their time together. Even though the Lord knew this would happen and had told Peter it would occur, it still would have been difficult for both of them. But what it does show is both the resilience of Peter, and the great love and compassion of the Lord. And in this example there is a great lesson for us to learn and apply in our lives today.
Jesus had previously told Peter that before the cock crowed that day Peter would deny knowing Jesus three times.
After Jesus had been arrested and taken away, Peter followed at a distance and then tried to slip in amongst the people incognito, pretending to be just another member of the mob. But different people in the crowd recognised that he was one of the Lord’s followers and that he was a Galilean and that they were sure that he had been one of the followers of Jesus.
On each of the occasions when this recognition occurred Peter said to the person or people, “I do not know him,” and when he was recognised as one of the disciples he said, “Man I am not,” and when they were certain he was a disciple because he was a Galilean he said, “I don’t know what you are talking about.” (Ref: verses 57, 58, 60)
The Cock Crows
Immediately after making his final denial, the cock crowed to announce the beginning of the new day. For Peter it must have been the worst day of his life as he surely would have felt like his world was unravelling and his life was in turmoil.
Immediately as the cock crowed we see Jesus turn and look directly at Peter. Peter then remembered the words of Jesus saying, “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.” (Verse 61) As Jesus looked at Peter, the apostle recognised his failure and he went out and wept bitterly. (Verse 62)
Can you imagine Peter’s pain? Can you imagine the anguish as he saw his failure to stand by his friend, teacher and Lord at Jesus’ time of need? How much he must have suffered!
Peters Resilience and Jesus Love
But Peter was the man chosen by Jesus to lead the disciples and take the message of the gospel to the people after the Lord had gone. Jesus knew Peter had an inner strength and that he would bounce back. The Lord knew Peter was resilient.
Earlier, after Jesus told Peter that he would fail and deny the Lord three times, Jesus told him not to worry about it. He said that He had prayed for Peter that his faith would not fail and said to Peter, “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren.” (Luke 22:32)
Jesus was telling Peter that he would get over it and there was a need for Peter to be strong in faith so that he could strengthen the rest of the disciples. All of them would have been emotionally and psychologically shattered by the events of Jesus’ betrayal, arrest and execution, but Jesus was telling Peter they had to go on and that Peter needed to pull himself together so that he could help the rest come through this difficult time.
In this action of the Lord we see His love and compassion. He knew Peter would fail, but he did not hold it against Peter or bear a grudge. Instead He instructed him and showed His faith in Peter to do the work He had assigned him.
A Lesson for Today
It is the same for us today. We fail in our desires to do what is right in the sight of God many times. But the Grace of God is great and He overlooks our failures telling us to repent, pick ourselves up and continue forward along the path of righteousness. God’s grace overlooks our human frailties and weaknesses just as Jesus overlooked Peter’s denial. As Peter turned and became the great apostle and leader of the disciples that took the gospel to the world, in spite of his weaknesses and failures, so too we need to have the strength not to walk in condemnation when we fall down. We too are the recipients of the love of God and his mighty grace, so that we too can stand in the face of opposition. And when we fall, repent and pick ourselves up to seek the ways of God and receive his grace in our lives.
We too need to apply these same teachings to those around us when they do the wrong thing towards us. Just as Jesus forgave Peter’s denial, we too must forgive the wrongs done against us by our brethren, who are also struggling to find the Lord just as we are. we cannot hold a grudge against others but must forgive as we have been forgiven, just as the Lord taught in the Lord’s Prayer.
It is a good lesson to be learned in Peter’s denial and the actions of the Lord in response. And it is a lesson we can and must apply in our life by showing the same love of God towards those who wrong us.