The Gospel writers tell us about the three denials of Peter. What do we learn about our own possibilities of denying Jesus from Peter’s denials? What do we learn from Jesus prophesying that Peter would deny Him even before the rooster crowed?
Jesus warned Peter and warns us because He knows…
- that passion today does not guarantee passion tomorrow. Peter, of all people! Peter was in that inner circle of Jesus. Peter was one of the three brought up to the Mount of Transfiguration to see the glory of God fall upon Jesus. It was Peter, who among all of the rest of the disciples, makes that monumental declaration about Jesus first, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!” Peter was the one with the faith that said to Jesus, “Command me to walk on the water.” It was Peter who was willing to go with Jesus even to the death. It was Peter, who in his passion for Jesus, draws his sword and takes off the ear of one of those who came to arrest Jesus. It is Peter, in the book of Acts, who first boldly proclaims the first sermons about Jesus.
All of the disciples denied Jesus in one way or the other, but I think we know Peter’s story because it is important for us to be warned that sin can happen to the best of us.
- the power of sin and temptation. Why did Peter deny Jesus? He didn’t set out to deny Jesus. He followed Jesus, but in that moment of temptation, he succumbed to the power of temptation and sin. He fell a second and third time—each time growing stronger in his denial. Mark says that he proclaimed a curse and an oath against himself in the third denial. In other words, he said, “May I be cursed to die if I’m not telling the truth.”
- the power of pressure. I’m convinced that Peter did not deny Jesus because he was afraid to die. Rather, he denied Jesus because he fell to the pressure of public opinion. In that moment, he failed to speak what he knew to be culturally unacceptable.
- the propensity for us to depend on ourselves. Here, I find Peter’s greatest problem, and perhaps ours as well. Instead of depending on God, we depend on ourselves. When Jesus knew the way of the cross, Peter drew the sword. In the Garden, while Jesus prayed with such intensity, Peter slept. We cannot make it in our own strength.
- the penalty of sin. For Peter, there was the guilt that would come when he heard the rooster crow. There is always a penalty for our sin.
No wonder Peter would later offer the warning found in 1 Peter 5:8 that the Devil roams seeking someone to devour.