Now Peter sat outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came to him, saying, “You also were with Jesus of Galilee.” But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you are saying.” And when he had gone out to the gateway, another girl saw him and said to those who were there, “This fellow also was with Jesus of Nazareth.” But again he denied with an oath, “I do not know the Man!” And a little later those who stood by came up and said to Peter, “Surely you also are one of them, for your speech betrays you.” Then he began to curse and swear, saying, “I do not know the Man!” Immediately a rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus who had said to him, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” So he went out and wept bitterly. (Matthew 26:69-75)
There is no doubt that the apostle Peter was an impetuous and abrupt disciple of Jesus. He had moments of clarity in seeing things as the Lord wanted His disciples to see but there were often times Peter could not seem to keep his mouth shut. On one occasion he took the Lord aside and rebuked Him resulting in Jesus exhorting Peter, “Get behind me Satan.” The transformation of Peter would take a lot of years but the disciple in the gospel accounts was converted to a deeply devoted servant of God in the two epistles ascribed to his name. Like many men, there is one thing that stands out in the story of Peter that is remembered more often than anything else he did in life. Jesus was preparing Himself to face the cross He knew had been coming all His life. During the Passover feast Peter had boldly claimed he would never allow anyone to harm his Lord and would be willing to be put in prison or die for Christ. Later in the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter did challenge the authorities with a sword cutting off the ear of Malchus, servant of the High Priest. Peter’s bold assertion of allegiance was met by the gentle rebuke of Jesus telling him that before the rooster crowed Peter would deny the Lord three times. Simon denied the possibility as did the other apostles.
Jesus and the eleven went to the garden where the Lord spent time in prayer. Knowing His time had come, He arose and met those who came to arrest Him. The disciples forsook their Lord but Peter remained close by at a distance. Jesus was taken to Caiaphas the high priest where the scribes and elders were assembled. They grilled Jesus spitting in His face, beating Him and slapping the Son of God with the palms of their hands. In the courtyard Peter slipped among the people warming himself by the fire. A servant girl looked intently at Peter and challenged him as being a follower of Jesus. Peter denied her charge saying he did not know Jesus. Moving towards the gateway, the disciple was challenged by another girl who told everyone Peter had been with Jesus of Nazareth. He again denied he knew Jesus trying to distance himself as far from the accused as he could. Finally a third time those who stood by approached Peter saying he was a disciple of Jesus and Peter began to curse and swear that he did not know Jesus and he had nothing to do with Jesus. It was then the rooster changed the life of Peter. The crowing of the rooster is an innocuous sound common all over the world but on this morning it was a sign of betrayal – and Peter knew it. Luke tells us that Jesus turned and looked at Peter when the rooster crowed and Peter knew what he had just done. All of his pride had failed him at the critical time of courage and when the eyes of Peter and Jesus met; it was the disciple who knew he had failed the Son of God. How hurtful this must have been to Jesus to know how abandoned He was by all men – even His beloved Peter.
Knowing his failure, Peter went out and went bitterly. It would be a long few days for the fisherman who left everything to follow Jesus. The Lord would be killed on a cross and Peter would live with the shame of what he had done. How bitter he must have wept at the news of Jesus death. When the Lord needed him most, Peter denied him. Salvation would come on the first day of the week when Jesus would appear to the ten disciples upbraiding them for their unbelief. Later Jesus would seek to restore the spirit of Peter to encourage him to fulfill his ministry. Simon Peter would go on to preach a bold sermon on Pentecost and open the door of salvation for Jew and Gentile through the work of ministry that he willingly gave to his Lord. His growing faith is a model for every disciple to follow as he struggled with his faith but found grace in the eyes of the Lord.
Denying Christ at a pivotal time was a great failure on the part of Peter. His story is highlighted in scripture as the final hours of Jesus life was brought to a close. What should not be lost in the account of Peter’s failure is how easy it can be for the disciples of Christ to live in such a manner to deny they have any relationship with Jesus Christ. The world can be a hard place to live with peer pressure, influence, reputations and position competing for the spirit of man. Denying Christ can be a simple process of living in such a manner that no one knows they are holy people. Staying under the radar of examination few (if any) realize the person is a devoted servant of God. It makes life easier when there is no defense for moral judgment. Acceptance is the norm and blending in with the world is an accepted way of life. Like Peter, the Christian will deny they know Christ or have any affiliation with the church of the Lord and be so much like the world no one knows they have a religious bone in their body. And then the rooster crows reminding the heart that Jesus was lifted up on a cross so we would stand before Him with courage. Denying the Lord should make every disciple weep bitterly for the lack of courage in the face of trial when the Lord needs His people most. If a person will not stand for Jesus they will not stand for anything and their life will end in bitterness and eternal weeping. Peter’s failure was turned into victory. Never deny the Lord. Stand for truth, righteousness and the word of God. Jesus needs to see our faith.