Mark 14:29 Peter said to him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” 30 And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” 31 But he said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same. (NIV)
72 Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.” And he broke down and wept. (NIV)
Can you imagine how Peter felt that night after he realized what he had done? “And he broke down and wept.” (v. 72) Recently, this hit home to me. In a conversation with someone, out of my mouth popped something I knew I shouldn’t say but I said it anyway. As soon as it came out, I thought about the roosters crowing. I thought about how my words not only hurt the person I said them to, but also they hurt Jesus. I apologized for my words but I couldn’t shake off the disappointment I felt in myself. And I wept as I repented that night in prayer.
I read through this account of Peter’s denial in the other gospels. Something caught my eye in the book of Luke this time that I hadn’t thought of before. We all know of Peter, Petra, the rock. But in this instance, Jesus reverts to his given name of Simon. “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith might not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32) It occurred to me that perhaps he used his name Simon because Jesus knew that in that instance Peter wasn’t going to be “the rock, the stone”. He was going to be the fragile human who is prone to sin, Simon. I can almost hear him using his name as an endearment, spoken in love. I have used that tone of voice when my daughters made a choice that I knew was going to cause them pain but I knew was going to cause them to learn a lesson.
The thing is, Jesus knew what Peter was going to do (v. 30) the same way He knew what Judas was going to do (verse 18, 20), the same way He knows what I am going to do. Oh, I have good intentions of being strong, but apart from Jesus, I can do nothing. (John 15:5) When I try to do life on my own, I fail miserably.
As a follower of Jesus, I’d like to think if I were ever in the situation where it called for me to proclaim my allegiance to Christ that I would stand tall and say without a moment’s hesitation that I am a follower of Jesus. That is what I think of when I initially think of denying Jesus. But as I pondered this deeper, the smaller ways I deny Him almost daily popped into my head. I deny He knows what is best for me. The dialogue goes something like this: “Cindy, I know you are unemployed. Do you trust me to be your Husband and provide for you?” “No, Jesus; I am going to worry and fret and strive to do it in my own strength!” I deny that He loves me with an unfailing love. “Cindy, am I enough for you?” “No, Jesus, I am going to go eat a lot of carbs to give me that false sense of being filled instead of turning to you when I am lonely and feeling unloved.” What about the times I have had the opportunity to share the gospel with someone but hesitated because of what they might think of me? I don’t see that any differently than Peter in the courtyard the night Jesus was arrested.
We know that Jesus forgave Peter. “When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” “Feed my lambs.” (John 21:15) Jesus was offering Peter what He offers each of us: forgiveness, compassion, unconditional love, and purpose. And we know that Peter did go on and strengthen his brothers. The words he penned give us strength today. We can see Simon as a real person, loved by Jesus, forgiven by Jesus, proclaiming the name of Jesus as we read through the New Testament. Peter did not let that failure define him. Neither should we let our failures define us. Jesus knew his heart; he knew he truly loved him. He knows that about me as well.
I am so grateful, Father, that for as many times as I have fallen flat on my face in my walk with You, You did not leave me there. You tenderly picked me up, brushed away the tears, and set me back on my feet on the path that leads me to You. Let me boldly proclaim the name of Jesus and how He has changed my life to anyone who needs to hear. It is in His precious name I pray. Amen