While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him.
“You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus,” she said.
But he denied it. “I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about,” he said, and went out into the entryway.
When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, “This fellow is one of them.” Again he denied it.
After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, “Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.”
He began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about.”
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.
– Mark 14:66-72
“Jesus was kind and good; He was the Healer and the Teacher. But He was also God with them. Messiah. Emmanuel. And Peter had denied Him.
“Not once, but three times.
“Peter pressed his face to the dirt, and the sobs came over him in waves. He would regret this day as long as he lived. Jesus was the greatest friend Peter had ever had.”
– Karen Kingsbury, The Friends of Jesus
I was watching television about two months ago. There was a trailer for a new movie showing during the commercials. In the scene, you see the actor portraying Ted Kennedy saying (from memory, so it may not be word for word), “Peter betrayed Jesus. I have Chappaquiddick.”
If I had a brick, I would have thrown it at the television. I was infuriated at so many levels. First, Judas betrayed Jesus. Peter denied Jesus. There is a difference. Second, Ted Kennedy was betrayed by Ted Kennedy. He screwed up. I wrote recently that we are getting so far from the teaching of our Savior that we want to blame anyone else for our mistakes. This one little quote from a movie shows that at least for some, the problem has been around for a while.
Before you ask, I am not giving thumbs up or thumbs down for this movie. I am far less than interested. I wasn’t interested when the news was covering the event at the time, other than to be grateful that we dodged having another Kennedy in the White House.
Since then, I read The Friends of Jesus by Karen Kingsbury. As for the book, it is a delightful read and very easy to read. She moves events around from the Gospels to weave a story that starts with Simon the Leper and ends with John. She points out the weaknesses of these friends, so each friend becomes real to those reading. In the introduction, she points out that the book is a work of fiction, so any twists in stories from the Scripture are made to weave the tale so that the story of each friend blends into the next story.
The chapter on Peter is well done, but the chapter title is “Peter, the Betrayer.” I was so enthralled by the interconnected stories that I didn’t think of skipping the chapter, my original intent. I’m glad I didn’t. She didn’t mention ‘betrayal’ in the chapter at all. She followed the quote above with Peter thinking that God could not forgive him, but the next paragraph is a paragraph of possible hope. She later retells the story from John 21, where Jesus asks Peter three times if Peter loved Him, reestablishing Peter as an Apostle.
Of course, the hope was already on Jesus’ mind before He predicted that Peter would deny Him.
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
– Luke 22:31-32
Note the words used in this verse. Satan will sift ‘all of you’. What happened after Peter drew his sword in the Garden of Gethsemane? Peter followed at a distance, but the others scattered. No one writes that they betrayed Jesus. Peter followed, scared out of his wits, but he followed. At the point where he denied Jesus three times, it was as if he was a spy, gathering information in the enemy’s camp. In a way, he was. No spy today is going to give his real name, and they are trained to not divulge information if captured. Jesus did not want a political uprising. Jesus came to pay the penalty for our sins. This had to be done. Yet, Jesus knew that Peter would be the only one brave enough, or fool-hardy, to follow. This isn’t a betrayal, but Peter felt that it was at the time. Maybe Peter remembered something that Jesus once said.
“But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.”
– Matthew 10:33
Yes, Peter felt that he had betrayed Jesus. The walk along the shore in John 21 was necessary to reestablish that relationship with Jesus. Peter would never be ‘Peter’ if he had the burden of guilt from his denial.
We often deny ourselves the power that God can give us, because we wallow in guilt instead of accepting God’s forgiveness once we have confessed our sins. Note the process: Recognize the sin, confess, repent, and since you have removed yourself from the sin by repenting, remove the guilt as well.
Peter was forgiven. Judas hung himself. Judas had betrayed Jesus.
Maybe it’s a matter of the constant changing of the language. My wife looks back fondly on her childhood. She would say that no one messed with any of her brothers or sisters. If you did, the fight would be with all nine of the children. This may be a filtered view of her past, but what if one of her baby sisters, the three youngest, said, “Nah, I’ll sit this one out?” Would that be a betrayal? Yes. They would be expected to be part of a unified front. One missing link could tip the balance.
But Jesus expected Peter to follow. That would be Peter’s nature, his boldness. He knew Peter would deny Him. Thus, He pointed out that He specifically prayed for Peter (Luke 22:31-32 above), and He wanted Peter to ‘strengthen your brothers.’ After this was over, Peter had to be Peter, and Jesus prayed for that specifically.
When Jesus arose and appeared to Mary Magdalene, He told Mary to tell the others and Peter. Jesus knew Peter would feel too guilty. He might not be with his friends. Guilty people tend to sulk. Yet, once Peter was reestablished as an Apostle, Peter was bold. It was Peter’s sermon on Pentecost that is recorded in the book of Acts. Peter also boldly spoke after healing the lame man at the Beautiful Gate, and again at the Sanhedrin. The load of guilt would have made Peter weak and ineffective.
Do you feel guilty? Do you feel weak? Are you too timid to stand up and say, “Jesus is my Lord and Savior?” Are you worried that Matthew 10:33 is looming over your head?
If you have a saving knowledge of Jesus… If Jesus is in your heart… If you have a loving relationship with our Lord and Savior, Jesus has already washed away those sins. Don’t insult Him by hanging on to the guilt. Jesus can give you the strength to boldly proclaim Jesus as Lord. At first, the words may sound weak and ineffective, but with practice, they can become bold. God is your strength. Trust in Him.
Soli Deo Gloria. Glory to God Alone.