Matthew 26:69-75 (Voice) 69 As all this was going on in Caiaphas’s chamber, Peter was sitting in the courtyard with some servants. One of the servant girls came up to him. Servant Girl: You were with Jesus the Galilean, weren’t you? 70 And just as Jesus had predicted, Peter denied it before everyone. Peter: Not me! I don’t know what you’re talking about. 71 He went out to stand by the gate. And as he walked past, another servant girl recognized him. Another Servant Girl (speaking to those standing around): That man over there—he was here with Jesus the Nazarene! 72 Again, just as Jesus had predicted, Peter denied it, swearing an oath. Peter: I don’t know Him! 73 Peter then went to chat with a few of the servants. A little while later, some other servants approached him: Other Servants: Look, we know that you must be one of Jesus’ followers. You speak like you are from the same area as His followers. You’ve got that tell-tale Galilean accent. 74 Cursing and swearing, Peter denied Him again. Peter: I do not know Him! As the exclamation left his mouth, a cock crowed. 75 And Peter remembered. He remembered that Jesus had looked at him with something like pity and said, “This very night, before the cock crows in the morning, you will deny Me three times.” And Peter went outside, sat down on the ground, and wept.
This familiar exchange, which occurs not long after Jesus is arrested, likely provides one of the more uncomfortable moments in scripture. It reminds me of what I call the ‘sitcom moment’, the point in every episode of a sitcom when one of the characters does something – usually something foolish or at least unnecessary – that the characters spent the rest of the episode dealing with the fallout of that action and trying to fix whatever problem was created.
While in sitcoms those situations are always manufactured and almost always silly, which is a very different situation than what we read in this passage, my experience as a reader is similar. Knowing what I do – knowing how the story ends – I want to turn away because I know what a bad decision Peter is about to make and the scale of the damage that he is about to incur.
And, to be sure, the scale of Peter’s mistake and failure here is truly epic. I mean, can you imagine denying Christ? Not just denying belief in Jesus but denying to even know him at all. There is no other way to describe Peter’s action other than to call it a betrayal.
As we follow along in the story, each one of Peter’s denials piles onto the scale of the betrayal and worsens the disloyalty. While Peter’s actions are stunning to us as readers of the story, a closer examination of our own lives and actions betrays the reality that Peter is not alone in his denials of Christ.
Few of us will ever have a moment of crystallized denial like Peter did, those situations are just not something that regularly occur. People don’t tend to ask us such direct questions about our faith. What people do tend to do, however, is watch what those of us that claim to follow Jesus do – how we act, and then match that up against what we say.
The sad reality is that when put under this level of scrutiny, many of our actions deny and betray Christ in just as powerful a way as Peter’s words did. When we claim Jesus, but turn our backs on his children in need, we deny Christ. When we curse and spew hatred towards those that are different or think differently than we do, we deny Christ. When we put money, power, influence, stuff over and above Jesus as a priority in our lives we deny Christ.
The truth is that none of us can honestly claim to have never committed Peter’s sin of betrayal and denial. All of us have – likely more than a few times – denied Jesus with our words or our actions or both.
Acknowledging that reality, the question is where do we go from here? This isn’t a sitcom, so there is no magical solution that allows for clean resolution within a thirty-minute time period. But as it always is, the good news of Jesus Christ is better than we hope or imagine.
Peter again serves as our example. Just as all of us can relate to his shortcomings and denials, we too can relate to his redemption and restoration. The witness of Peter should be clear: if Peter, the close personal friend of Jesus who still denied knowing him can be redeemed and restored so that he becomes the ‘rock on which the church will be built’, what can Jesus do with us.
Peter’s redemption began, like ours does, by accepting the grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ and then living our lives as a response to that grace and love. Just like our actions can deny and betray our savior, when we live as a response to his love they can praise and point others to him.
Sharing God’s Love,
Prayer: Lord, forgive us for the times we betray and deny you with our words and our actions. Strengthen and embolden us to loudly praise you with all that we say and do. Amen.