Text: Mark 14:26-31, Luke 22:54-62, John 18:10, John 21:17
When I think of Peter in the Bible, I often picture him as a best friend of Jesus – someone Jesus dearly loved in spite of his flaws, as only BFF’s can do. He could be a bit of a hothead, that Peter, like the time when the high priests came to take Jesus away for trial and “… Simon Peter drew a sword and slashed off the right ear of Malchus, the high priest’s slave” (John 18:10, NLT). Jesus stepped in and rebuked Peter, reminding him that this was God’s will for Him as the Son. But they were friends; and Peter would do anything for his friend.
When Jesus began the process of saying goodbye to the men He loved so dearly, Jesus foretold that they would each leave Him at some point in the coming days. “All of you will desert me,” He said (Mark 14:27).
Passionate Peter emphatically rejects the thought. He can’t imagine he would ever do such a thing to his friend, but Jesus responds to him definitively, “I tell you the truth, Peter — this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny three times that you even know me” (Mark 14:30, NLT).
How heavy the burden on Jesus’ heart must have been to know what He was about to suffer, what He was about to feel and see, but also to know in those moments His dear brothers would leave Him – deny even knowing anything about Him. It’s one thing to hear the crowd shout “hosanna!” only to be swayed to cries of “crucify him!” days later; and for Judas, the Betrayer, to hand him over with a kiss. It’s another to watch those who are closest to Him to walk away as He prepares to die in their stead.
Yet, Jesus loved them all – enough to die for them, eyes wide open.
When Peter denied Him the third time, the Bible says, “At that moment The Lord turned and looked at Peter. Suddenly, the Lord’s words flashed through Peter’s mind” (Luke 22:61, NLT). And Peter wept. He didn’t run back and say, “Wait, I am a disciple of Jesus!” He turned away and cried.
We can only guess that a part of Peter finally understood how weak he really was in his faith, but the years after would grow and sanctify him into a man who was deeply committed to the Lord. He was one of the first to whom Jesus appeared after the resurrection, Jesus asking Peter to “feed [His] sheep” (John 21:17). And the first chapters of the book of Acts describe Peter’s leadership role among the disciples. His sermon at Pentecost in Acts 2 lead more than 3000 people to the Lord (Acts 2:37-47)!
The same Peter who denied Christ three times is the one God used to help establish the early Church.
As you seek the Lord in the coming days in preparation for Easter Sunday, remember God’s great love for Peter. He was a disciple – a great friend to Christ – and yet he fell short. Very short. And Christ loved him still – and called him to do great work for His Kingdom!
Isn’t God good to show us over and over again, even amidst the trial of His Son, that He loves us? When we are weak, He is strong. And He wants to use us in the great outworking of His plan for His glory!