He knew he had messed up as soon as he heard the rooster crow. As he turned his head, he saw Jesus look at him. The look said it all. Jesus had told him that he would do it. And he had vehemently denied that he would ever. But he did it. He denied his Lord. Not once. Not twice. But three times. Before the rooster crowed. Just as Jesus said he would.
Jesus had been arrested. Peter had followed. Keeping tabs on his Lord that night. Waiting to see what would happen after the arrest. The girl noticed him. She called him out. You were with the man. No. I. Wasn’t. That’s what Peter said three times. Each time he was noticed, he said it. I never knew Him.
After he heard the rooster, he left and wept bitterly. He had just denied his Lord. What was he to do now? Was he worthy of forgiveness? Did he even dare ask?
Then I remember. I too denied Him. It wasn’t my intention. But I did it without hesitation. Why? Fear of being ridiculed. Fear of new expectations. Wanting to fit in. Wanting to be liked. But what was I willing to give up for that denial? What was worth it?
After all, the timing was so wrong when Peter denied Jesus. Jesus had just told the disciples that he was days away from dying. Did they not realize that he was dying for them? I knew he had died for me when I denied him. I had already pledged my life to him. But I still didn’t hesitate. What was I really afraid of? What relationship was more important to me? My relationship with my friends? Or my relationship with him? None of my friends had offered their life for me. In fact, the new boy was probably planning to ridicule anyone who had said they were a follower of Jesus. So I knew he wouldn’t die for me. And no one else in the group offered.
I remember my denial. Seventh grade. Walking with a group of classmates. The new boy asked the question. Is anybody here religious? Everybody pointed to me. No. I’m not. I said. Oh. I get it. People don’t know the difference between being religious and being a Christian. But I knew what he was asking. I denied it. I wanted to fit in. I didn’t want people calling me names or treating me differently. And with that response everyone kept walking. The conversation was over. But I knew. I knew in my heart that I should have stood up for what I believed. I shouldn’t have been afraid to share my young faith. I’ve never forgotten that conversation. And I wonder how things would have turned out if I had been bold.
I wonder what the other kids saw in me that made them point me out. Was it because they knew my family went to church? What was it they saw that was different? Was it the clothes I wore? Was it my actions? Was it words I said? Or didn’t say?
Oh Peter. How could you. How could you deny your Savior. Your Lord. Your Master. He knew you would and you told him never. Never would you deny him. But he knew you would. And when the deed was done. Not once. But three times. Three times in the matter of a few hours. You were heartsick. You were broken. How was it so easy to deny at the moment when someone noticed you.
Oh. Yes. People notice.
Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, Peter—this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.” Matthew 26:34
Jesus could have said. I told you so. Instead, he just turned and looked at Peter. The look said enough. Sorrow. Betrayal. Did Peter also see the love and forgiveness? Perhaps not in that moment.
He had heard those words just hours earlier. You will betray me. As soon as they were said, they were forgotten.
Peter was too caught up in the moment. He witnessed Jesus’ arrest. His beating. His trial. Oh. He watched Jesus that night. From a distance. He watched with caution. Not wanting others to notice him. But they did notice.
I’m a fair weather fan of a certain football team. If they’re winning, I’m all in. If they’re not playing well, well I’m not watching. I can’t bear to see them fall apart and lose. I wouldn’t dare attend a game. After all, I’d hate to show my true colors if my team isn’t winning. I wouldn’t want others to see me turn away in despair.
That’s how I see Peter. Oh. He loves Jesus. He’s a follower. He said he was willing to die for him. When the ministry is going well. But when the opposition shows up, he supports from the sidelines. He doesn’t want to appear to be in the game. Now it’s a spectator sport.
Until he’s caught. Someone recognizes him and calls him out. Without even thinking about it, he denies everything he once held so dear In a split second, when he could stand for something he falls in defeat. Three times.
I have faced tests since that moment in my youth. Some I passed. Others I failed. I don’t know. I will face another test some day. I’m sure of it. If so, my prayer is that my faith will be strong and my courage unwavering .